Two high school students at St. Anthony’s High School in Long Island have been suspended indefinitely after they walked into an after-hours sporting event wearing a Confederate flag draped over their shoulders. We recently discussed another suspension of a student involving a Confederate flag. I have the same free speech concerns in this case. The question is whether other flags would also be confiscated and the student suspended in my view. While I can certainly understand how this flag represents racism for many, others view the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage and heroism. I often see them in Virginia and recoil a bit due to the association with slavery. However, my concern is where the school is drawing the line on speech.
Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
Dallas attorney James Lee Bright faced a dilemma: he had to appear in court but he recovering from knee surgery with a large leg brace and an ice machine attached to his leg to stop swelling. He could not fit his pants over the hardware so he wore a shirt, tie, jacket, and shorts. That did not go over well with Judge Etta Mullin (left) who refused to hear his motion to dismiss a weapons charge for a client because he was wearing shorts. It was a rather unsympathetic and inflexible decision but it was not the first for this particular judge. However, it is the mounting criticism of Mullin that raises the question of why the Democratic party has pushed for her reelection and why the state bar has not investigated allegations of injudicious conduct.
Judge Richard Posner has crushed the appeal of Catherine “Banana Lady” Conrad who sued for copyright infringement over the publication of her photograph in her costume after appearing at parties for children. Posner not only dismissed her case, he encouraged a lower court to bar her from new filings and published a picture as part of the opinion. The picture is now part of an official opinion and court record. As discussed below, The Banana Lady fared much worse than did The Human Cannonball in an earlier analogous case brought under the common law as opposed to copyright.
Lawrence Pintak, dean of the Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, has written a controversial guide for journalists on how to cover stories without insulting Muslims. “Islam for Journalists” is an effort to educate reporters on the sensitivities of Muslims to avoid triggering protests or violence. Pintak writes that “Across the Muslim world extremists are wielding their swords with grisly effect, but the pen . . . can be just as lethal.” That line captures the controversy because it seems to suggest that reporters are a cause of violence when they fail to adhere to the demand of religious values or orthodoxy in their publications.
MSNBC host Al Sharpton has long been controversial from his involvement in the Tawana Brawley scandal to questions raised about his pressing companies to give “love offerings” and associations to his legal problems. Nevertheless, his position at MSNBC is viewed as secure while President Obama continues to honor him at official White House meetings and public events, including an event three days ago. This teflon reputation with liberals appears to be holding even after news reports surfaced that Sharpton was an FBI snitch and an associate accused him of seeking to cash in on the drug trade before he became a national figure. Sharpton has been somewhat guarded in answering detailed questions about the stories about his wearing a wire in meetings with the mob, but recently confirmed that he “cooperated” with the FBI. He proved testy with 60 Minutes in refusing to acknowledge that he was an informant. According to reports, the FBI designated Sharpton as “Confidential Informant No. 7″ and used him with a bugged briefcase to incriminate mob figures in discussions of criminal enterprises. Sharpton insisted “I’m not a rat, I’m a cat.” He certainly has nine lives given the range of his past scandals. The mayor of New York and other Democratic leaders lined up to praise Sharpton in the aftermath of the story.
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
Kevin Swanson, a pastor and host of Religious Right, voiced his criticisms of Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen on his radio program last month. Swanson claimed that the animated movie pushes an agenda “to indoctrinate homosexuality and bestiality in children.” He told his co-host Steve Vaughn that Satan was using the movie “to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian.” Both men posited some theories about the film’s “progressive” agenda even though neither had actually seen the film.
Disney’s Frozen Official Trailer
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Well, will miracles never cease? In a church known for compelling confession from its followers, a remarkable one from its chief advocate came across the wires on Friday. That’s right, after decades of lying, obfuscating, blocking, destroying evidence and covering up in the most un-Christian way, Pope Francis has done what many Catholics hoped his predecessors would have done years ago — apologize AND beg forgiveness. Oh, lots of Popes apologize but it’s always with a condition … a term … a little euphemism about one bad apple not spoiling the great work of the barrel, or that the church’s pedophile problem isn’t really any worse than anybody else’s. (Really, every church has a decades old issue of unmarried priests molesting little boys and girls on an institutional level?) Or that it’s just American culture fueling the problem. (Damn justice seekers reading those beatitudes so literally!)
This week, U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister was faced with the scandalous release of a security video to his kissing his married aide, Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock, at his office in Louisiana. That would normally be the stuff of scandal, but it is even worse when you are married and ran as a religious conservative. McAllister went public with an apology to everyone (except personally to Peacock’s husband who is now divorcing his wife). He asked forgiveness but is now demanding an investigation to potentially jail whoever revealed his conduct: a curious path for a self-proclaimed redemptive sinner.
We have been following stories of how European courts have been hammering Internet companies in stripping posters of anonymity and limiting speech (here and here). Now, Google has been hit again with a major fine of $1.4 million for failing to have cars that are readily identifiable in its Street View program in Italy. Italians complained that they were not given sufficient notice to get out of the way to avoid being filmed.
A secret recording has surfaced of Vice President Dick Cheney speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition where he held forth on various subjects — assuming that the session was closed to the public and press. Cheney appears to be intent on, again, revising history to get people to embrace a security state. You may recall how Cheney (who is often cited as a potential defendant in a torture prosecution) publicly assuring the nation that the Bush torture program produced valuable intelligence. That assertion has been previously dismissed by experts and insiders. However, as we discussed recently, the forthcoming Senate Report goes into great deal to show that not only is that assertion untrue but that the CIA actively sought to hide the fact that the torture program produced insignificant intelligence (and that detainees were tortured despite their cooperation in conventional interrogations). Cheney is now fighting to defend the massive surveillance of citizens — again dismissing even the concessions of intelligence officials about abuses and violations under the program. Cheney told a rapturous crowd that all such accounts were “hogwash.” He further pumped the crowd with support for an attack on Iran to add yet another war to our current international conflicts.
As the United States continues to grapple with openly corrupt officials and businesses in Afghanistan and Iraq who have stolen billions in aid, the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian system appears eager to outdo their counterparts. The poster boy of Ukrainian corruption is Vladimir Belonog who has been openly selling meals ready to eat (MREs) that were shipping only days before to the country to support its besieged military. Belonog is selling the MREs with the U.S. markings still on them and the warning “U.S. Government Property, commercial resale is unlawful.” What is most remarkable is that he has not been arrested after selling the aid in plain view of the government. Diplomats and experts have described Ukraine under Presidents Kuchma and Yushchenko as a virtual kleptocracy, or government of thieves.
While the Obama Administration struggles to restore good relations with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom continues to lead the effort among Arab nations to deny most rights of free exercise, free expression, and free association. Saudi Arabia has fought for the creation of an international blasphemy standard (with the support of the Obama Administration) and has continued to deny basic rights of worship to religious minorities. Now, the the Kingdom has introduced new criminal provisions that makes atheism not only blasphemy but terrorism.
Posted in Constitutional Law, Courts, Free Speech, Justice, Lawyering, Media, Politics, Religion, Supreme Court, tagged David Green., Hobby Lobby, National Christian Charitable Foundation on 1, March 30, 2014 | 691 Comments »
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
Unless you have been in a coma the last few weeks, you have probably heard of or read about the Hobby Lobby case recently argued in front of the United States Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby is challenging a section of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide medical insurance for their employees or pay a fine. The mandate also requires the insurance to include coverage for contraception services. Services that its owners claim violates their religious beliefs.
“…. the battle for its Christian identity was revived this week when lawyers for the company argued before the Supreme Court that the company should not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. The issue, says Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green, isn’t that the company wants to meddle with women’s rights to take contraceptive drugs. “We’re not trying to control that,” she said. “We’re just trying to control our participation in it.” ‘ Reader Supported News
Mrs. Green claims they are not trying to control their female employees use of contraceptives, but the network of causes that they are involved with seem to indicate that the Greens want to mix their religious views into everyone else’s business. (more…)
Posted in Constitutional Law, Courts, Free Speech, International, Media, Society, tagged Abdullah Gül, Binali Yıldırım, censorship, Courts, Free Speech, Prime Minister Erdoğan, Turkey, Turkish Courts, Twitter on 1, March 29, 2014 | 10 Comments »
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
We recently reported of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s effort to silence the social media service Twitter to repress dissent within Turkey. HERE. Now, the courts in Turkey are beginning to reverse some of these efforts. Turkish Twitter users are expected to regain access to the microblogging platform after a local court issued a stay of execution on last week’s decision by a local telecommunications authority to ban the website.
According to some local media reports, the ban will be lifted as soon as the administrative court in Ankara informs Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority of the ruling.
In a first official remark, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said the Turkish government would implement the court ruling. “We will implement the court’s decision. We might not like the court decision, but we will carry it out,” he told reporters.
Posted in Constitutional Law, Environment, Free Speech, Media, Politics, tagged Columbian, corruption, Don Benton, environment, Free Speech, Freedom of the Press, Washington Senate on 1, March 29, 2014 | 10 Comments »
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In what many see as a sign of attempting to control the press through legislative penalties a Washington state newspaper is crying foul after a state senator singled out a local newspaper by making it pay a $150,000-a-year fine for being “one of the top polluters in the county.” It just so happens that the lawmaker, state Senator Don Benton, had been the subject of a series of critical articles in the same newspaper.
The editor of The Columbian newspaper is now accusing Benton of playing hardball. Editor Lou Brancaccio said it is clear Benton’s “nonsensical” proposal is “silly on its face and in our view, retaliatory.”
I have previously discussed my views about Nancy Grace and her genre of legal commentary. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). This week Grace is being mocked for another controversial appearance on Good Morning America where she shouts “porn” repeatedly in an interview on the the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. She was appearing with ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams and appears upset that neither the anchor nor Abrams want to talk about porn as opposed to the developments in the case.
I recently wrote a column on the wholesale attack on press freedoms under President Obama that parallel his attack on other civil liberties and privacy principles (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). I testified on the erosion of press freedom under President George W. Bush but the assault on the free press has worsened under President Obama while Democratic members and supporters remain conspicuously silent. Reporters have not been so silent or reticent and have repeatedly tried to educate citizens of the danger to press freedoms under this President. Now one of the most respected journalists in the country, New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Risen, has declared that the Obama Administration is the greatest threat to a free press in a generation.
We previously discussed the rapid drop of the United States in the protection of the free press. Now, the respected Reporters Without Borders has produced a separate report on Internet freedoms. In yet another dubious distinction for President Obama, the United States is now listed with such “Enemies of the Internet” as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. This is our first time on the infamous list — a true accomplishment for an Administration that has been denounced for its wholesale attacks on privacy and other core civil liberties.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The continuing cat and mouse game between the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish users of the social networking site Twitter shows the desire for control of information and the historical drive to circumvent it.
After pledging to “wipe out Twitter,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered Turkish ISPs to block the social networking site, redirecting requests to a government webpage. But that move, which used a change in the Domain Name Service hosted by network providers in Turkey, was quickly circumvented by Twitter users through the use of alternative DNS servers. DNS servers basically match domain names such as example.com with their core Internet Protocol Addresses for which websites are addressed under the surface to most users. By controlling the DNS servers in Turkey by forced banning of the twitter.com name, Turkish DNS servers redirect traffic to an IP address of a government website rather than the official twitter.com website.The social media campaign against Erdoğan has continued to grow despite the government’s best effort, and even more Turks are flocking to Twitter as a result of the federal censorship. Immediately following the ban, Twitter usage in Turkey rose 138 percent.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor
If the title of this piece shocks you, I apologize. On second thought, I won’t apologize for asking a legitimate question about a prominent politician who has made his proposals to harm the poor and middle class and give tax cuts to the wealthy his calling card in the conservative movement. Recently, Rep. Ryan made a statement about the people who inhabit the inner city claiming that those residents are less than motivated to work for a living.
‘ “Paul Ryan triggered a firestorm of recrimination this week. Speaking recently on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program, the Wisconsin Republican and self-styled budget wonk linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” ‘ Bill Moyers
It seems obvious to me who Paul Ryan is talking about here. What do you think he is saying here? Of course, Mr. Ryan tried to walk back from the statements, but how can you unring this bell? (more…)
by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, weekend contributor
For those not familiar with the TED Talks, they were the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer. TED was intended as a single presentation in Silicon Valley back in 1984. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The talks have grown from a handful of views and participants into millions of views. Presenters have come from every walk of life and culture, including entertainers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and educators.
TED has recently redesigned their website, hosting their own original content videos. What does that mean? They are immune from copyright takedown demands. Many people livestream and record the videos. That means it is virtually impossible for anyone to censor or take down a TED Talk. Copies are out there in the wild. At least, they are out there until the Internet is destroyed, but even then, they will be circulated on film and digital media much like the pamphleteers of long ago. I am sure everyone recalls those troublemakers Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. I posted a story on February 1, entitled Edward Snowden Speaks. In that story, we discussed the mysterious takedowns of the German TV interview with Mr. Snowden on YouTube almost as fast as they appeared.
A few days ago, Edward Snowden was a guest speaker at the TED2014 annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 2014 conference celebrated the 30th anniversary of TED.
Yesterday a North Carolina jury handed down a major victory for free speech and academic freedom. It found that the University of North Carolina–Wilmington retaliated against criminology professor Dr. Mike Adams for his writing of conservative columns for the website Townhall.com and other forums. The decision culminates years of litigation, including a prior decision before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The treatment of Adams reaffirms for many conservatives that academia is hostile to their views and that conservative academics face a bias on promotion. The implications of the decision however could go beyond the issue of bias and raise countervailing issues of academic judgment and decision making.
Remember that politician around 8 years ago who promised the most transparent Administration ever? Well, long ago, President Obama distinguished himself by withholding documents, pictures, and documents from the public and Congress. This includes the withholding of photos for the simple reason that they will embarrass the government or be used by critics like the pictures of Osama Bin Laden. (In the case of Bin Laden, it appears that the account glamorized in movies like Zero Dark Thirty may not be true and that U.S. forces allegedly riddled the body of Bin Laden with countless bullets, according to a new report). However, the Administration has gone well beyond the simply embarrassing. It has defied Congress in refusing to turn over documents to oversight committees, prompting a vote to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder be prosecuted for obstruction. (The Administration then prevented prosecutors from acting on the charge). A new analysis by the Associated Press shows what is already well known in Washington, President Obama has created the least transparent presidency in decades. The AP found that the Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor
“…to say John Joe Kelly plays the bodhrán, is like saying Mount Everest is a bit of a climb” – Sidmouth Music Festival, Paul Saunders, March ’99
St. Paddy’s day is upon us, and in the spirit of the Emerald Isle, some authentic Irish music is in order. Ireland has a long history of treasuring its poets and musicians. The tambourine was the percussion instrument of choice going back into the dim mists of Irish music history. Sometime about the late 19th or early 20th century, the bodhrán as we know it now came into existence. The first recordings of the bodhrán date to the 1920s. The great Irish composer, Seán Ó Riada (John Reidy) declared the bodhrán to be the native drum of the Celts. He described them as having a musical history predating Christianity, and was a native instrument of southwest Ireland.
John Joe Kelly’s interest in percussion began early. When he was seven, borrowed his older sister’s tin whistles. Unfortunately for the whistles, he used them as drumsticks. He managed to dent them in the process. A friend of the family observed John Joe’s interest in drums and bought him a 10-inch bodhrán. A percussion legend was born.
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In another example of felons making law enforcement easier Jules Bahler allegedly posted onto Facebook images of himself toting a sub-machine gun the same day he reportedly robbed a Chemical Bank branch in Bay City, Michigan. He is also accused of two more robberies over an eight day period.
On March 5, Bahler reportedly walked into a Chemical Bank branch in Bay City and “displayed what appeared to be a black sub machine gun and demanded money,” according to an affidavit sworn by FBI Agent Sean Callaghan. After a teller gave Bahler $7000, he fled the bank. The prior Pontiac robberies, Callaghan noted, netted Bahler a combined $8300.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and director of the Natural History Museum’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He is also the host of Fox Networks’ new science series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Last Sunday, Tyson appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources program and spoke with Brian Stelter. During the program, Tyson talked about “the hypocrisy of people dismissing scientific theory while simultaneously embracing the fruits of scientific discovery ‘that we so take for granted today.’”
Tyson said that our civilization “is built on the innovation of scientists and technologists and engineers who have shaped everything that we so take for granted today. So some of the science deniers or science haters, these are people who are telling that to you while they are on their mobile phone. They are saying, ‘I don’t like science. Oh, GPS just told us to go left. So it’s time for people to sit back and reassess what role science has actually played in our lives. And learn how to embrace that going forward, because without it, we will just regress back into the caves.”
We have been discussing a variety of stories lately that reflect the rapidly shrinking free speech rights of students, including a recent column. A story out of Wisconsin shows just how arbitrary administrators have become in stomping out students engaging in free speech and student press rights. Fond du Lac High School senior Tanvi Kumar showed precisely the type of courage and creativity that we want to instill in the young. While other kids were at the Mall and fighting over fashions, Kumar wrote an investigative piece that documents what was described as a “rape culture” at the school. The school officials immediately moved to censor and block the publication — joining a growing population of draconian administrators teaching students to yield to arbitrary authority. In this case, Fond du Lac High School Principal Jon Wiltzius was able to gut principles of free speech and free press in one overarching authoritarian gesture.
We have previously discussed the irony of Senator Dianne Feinstein expressing outrage over the fact that her staff was subject to warrantless CIA surveillance. Feinstein’s outrage over the spying on her staff is only matched by her lack of outrage over the spying on the rest of America. However, she does have an good point to raise with regard to the role of one lawyer who seems to be dancing along the edge of both ethical and legal standards. He is the acting CIA general counsel Robert Eatinger who is believed to have played a large role in the programs and actions under investigation. Eatinger is well known to civil libertarians as someone involved in past abuses by the agency.
Below is a longer version of my column that ran today in USA Today. The column was originally written for a longer format but had to be reduced to fight the page. The column looks at state of the Fourth Estate on the 50th anniversary of the decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. I do not wish to understate the threat against the media in 1964 but it is hard to overstate the threat against the media in 2014.
The annual U.S. News and World Report survey is out on law schools and George Washington is ranked 20th. The ranking has become a dominant element in the field with a heavy influence on applications and even alumni giving. In the current downturn in the legal field (with decreases in applications), that influence has only grown.
We have previously discussed the growing number of legal advertisements that degrade the profession with cheap pitches that would make a used car salesperson blush. That latest example (below) is from Pittsburgh attorney Daniel Muessig. The advertisement is clearly tongue-in-cheek but in the end I find it less than comical. Muessig promises to help felons get back to crime and proclaims that he “think like a criminal.” It fulfills the worst stereotypes of criminal defense lawyers as felons are shown committing crimes and saying “Thanks, Dan.” Muessig may have a skill for thinking like a criminal but he clearly has yet to master the talent of thinking like a lawyer.
Below is my column in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. I recently testified on this issue in three separate hearings before Congress (here and here and here). Last week, President Obama proceeded to add yet another suspension order to the health care law. It is part of a broader array of such unilateral actions that raise disturbing constitutional issues under the Separation of Powers. This goes beyond the usual discretion in “filing in the blanks” or ambiguities of laws. These were not delegated or unanswered questions. These were largely core issues — dates and coverage issues — that were the subject of intense congressional debate. Indeed, in a number of cases, President Obama asked for reforms and was denied the changes by Congress — only to order the very same reforms by executive action. That is why this is not an administrative law but a constitutional law issue in my opinion.
There was a delicious irony to the coverage of a speech by Zhang Chunxian, the party chief of Xinjiang, to journalists. In the authoritarian, one-party state, Chinese leaders speak matter-of-factly about censoring reporters and blocking free speech. In this case, Zhang spoke about the vulnerability of the system of censorship maintained by him and other party bosses. His remarks were then censored by his own censors. Just another day in the worker’s paradise.
Somehow I knew this day would come. Down deep I knew that there would come a time when I had to express sympathy of Justin Bieber. Thanks to the Miami Police and a Florida law that day has come. CBS4 News, the Miami Herald and other media outlets went to court under the state’s open records law to demand videos of Bieber giving a urine sample. This followed Bieber’s arrest after he drag raced a Lamborghini on a residential road in South Beach and admitted to smoking marijuana and taking prescription pain killers. The video showed Bieber urinating and a black box had to be placed over his genitalia by court order of Judge Miami-Dade County Judge William Altfield in the interests of his privacy. What I fail to understand is why the entire video of urinating is not treated as a protected matter for privacy purposes. The demand by these media outfits truly disgusts me but I am more concerned in how this law is being interpreted to publicly release videos of people urinating.
Censor boards in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have sunk Darren Aronofsky’s new Biblical epic, Noah. The Paramount movie is now banned because it allegedly contradicts Islam by portraying a prophet and no one in these countries can see an alternative account of religion other than Islam.
Dean Lawrence Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law has resigned from his post after taking a leave of absence on November 6th amid charges of sexual harassment. Mitchell had previously said he would not resign and cited the support of the University. He also attracted the initial support of individuals like David Lat at Above the Law. However, the university reportedly may now be investigating the matter and a court has rejected Mitchell’s effort to strike large portions of the amended complaint.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
The Fifth Amendment protects all United States citizens by guaranteeing us all the right of due process of law. The Fifth Amendment is meant to ensure that the government has to at least prove to a court that a citizen is guilty of any crime that he or she is charged with.
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Cornell Law
Without the Fifth Amendment, the government could grab any citizen off the street and proceed to jail them or execute them without a trial of any kind where the accused could mount a defense to the government’s charges. It seems that the Obama Administration is once again in the process of deciding whether it will unilaterally execute an American citizen believed to living in Pakistan. Or at least, preparing us for a kill decision that they have already made. (more…)
Controversial Centinela Valley School Board Members’ Elections Financed By Construction Firm That Later Received Hundreds Of Millions In Contracts
Posted in Academics, Bizarre, Media, Politics, Society, tagged Bond Issues, California, Centinela Valley School District, Elections, Jose Fernandez, Piper Jaffray, Political Action Committees, School Boards, Taxes, TELECU on 1, March 1, 2014 | 13 Comments »
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In the two past contested elections for what now has become the controversy magnet of the Centinela Valley School Board, (as reported in a previous article regarding Superintendent Jose Fernandez’ generous $663,000 compensation package seen HERE) it was revealed that a major California construction firm TELACU poured large amounts of money into campaigns to elect their favored candidates. In return for the favor, the friendly school board awarded TELACU two construction bond measures on the ballot totaling nearly $200 million. Voters approved both, and TELACU was awarded contracts to manage the construction projects.
The Daily Breeze reports Centinela Valley officials have pointed out that as a result of the two successful bond measures — one in 2008, another in 2010 — major face-lifts have occurred or are in the pipeline for all three campuses. The projects have replaced old, sometimes crumbling facilities with state-of-the-art classroom wings, media centers, offices and commons areas.
Critics, on the other hand, say the whole thing smacks of a money grab for the interested parties at the expense of the taxpayers.
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. The latest case comes from Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland has been previously cited in abuses by police in this area as we discussed. In this case, the officer summed up too many such cases by telling the witness simply “you have not rights.” That simplifies things wonderfully for police and citizens alike.
The crackdown on free speech continues among our Arab allies. This week, Dubai arrested four people for posting insults about companions of Prophet Mohammed on Instagram. Since the companions of Prophet Mohammed are revered by Sunni Muslims, the insults are particularly sensitive in the country with tensions between a majority of Shiites and a Sunni monarchy.
Yesterday’s hearing on legislative and executive powers before the Judiciary Committee has generally a great deal of media and blog discussion. However, one of the more curious takes was written by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. Entitled “Activism on the Court? GOP Wants To Be The Judge,” the article portrays the hearing as a hypocritical and “newfound love of activist judges.” Having testified at the hearing, I was mystified by the spin on the hearing. Ironically, Milbank was criticized in the hearing by a member for allegedly distorting a prior hearing’s content and focus — an issue that we discussed in December. In a tense moment, Milbank (who was sitting a few feet from the members at the press table) was criticized for his prior column where he portrayed a Judiciary hearing as largely about impeaching President Obama. He was challenged as misrepresenting that hearing which contained only passing reference to impeachment as one of the various options left to Congress by the framers in serious conflicts with presidents. This now appears a continuing battle between the columnist and the Committee that will only grow more intense with this latest column. Here is the video link to the testimony so you can reach your own conclusions.
A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today that Google must remove a low-budget YouTube film that prompted riots and killings in the Muslim world as insulting to Mohammad. The highly offensive film portrays Mohammad as a sexual deviate who invented a religion to serve his own desires. Google has been under pressure from President Obama and others to take down the film. While President Obama publicly insisted that the United States stood by the first amendment, his Administration repeatedly tried to privately force Google to yield to the demands. It correctly refused. However, the same result was achieved today by Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the film who was received considerable criticism and hate mail for appearing in the film. She insisted that she was tricked into the role and claimed a copyright violation. The decision in Garcia v. Google, Inc. was written by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (right).
Posted in Free Speech, International, Media, Politics, Society, tagged European Pariament, Eurozone, Free Speech, Internet, Internet Service Providers, Net Neutrality, Networking on 1, February 23, 2014 | 7 Comments »
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Net Neutrality is in general the practice of prohibiting Internet Service Providers, Telecommunications Providers, and Networking Services from giving favorable access or download speeds to entities they wish to give advantage via preferential treatment relating to agreements or other considerations. End users would under Net Neutrality be afforded with equal access to material unconstrained by their service providers.
The vote is scheduled for February 24th of this year.
by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor
Since February is Black History Month, it seemed to me that a local story was worth discussing. I first became aware of the story when it appeared in the Johnson City (Tennessee) Press last Tuesday . A little further digging revealed the story originated when a member of the church sent a copy of one of “Brother” Donny Reagan’s sermons to The American Jesus blog. The American Jesus blog is run by the Rev. Zach Hunt, who is currently working on a graduate degree at Yale Divinity School. Zach published a brief story and posted the seventeen minute long sermon on The American Jesus blog last week.
“Brother” Danny Reagan is pastor of the Happy Valley Church of Jesus Christ, located between Johnson City and Elizabethton, TN. He records and archives all his sermons on the church website. Or at least he did until a couple of days ago. Now look what you get when you click the link.
Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
This past week, thousands of emails from within Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker’s inner circle were released as part of an appeal by his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Kelly Rindfleisch. Ms. Rindfleisch is appealing her conviction on illegal campaign activities during the 2010 Lt. Governor’s race.
“Kelly Rindfleisch was convicted of illegal campaign activity for working on the 2010 lieutenant governor’s campaign of then-Rep. Brett Davis while serving as Walker’s deputy chief of staff during his time as Milwaukee county executive. In Wisconsin, it is illegal for public employees to work on campaigns while on the clock and being paid to administer state services.
Prosecutors found that Rindfleisch traded more than 3,000 emails with Walker campaign staffers, most of which were sent on county time from a secret email system in Walker’s office. Davis, who was Walker’s favored candidate, lost the race but was later appointed by the governor as head of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.
Rindfleisch was sentenced in 2012 to six months in jail, but her sentence has been stayed as she appeals. She unsuccessfully requested to keep her emails secret while attempting to have her conviction overturned.” Readersupportednews
Ms. Rindfleisch and five other Walker employees were convicted on various illegal campaign activity charges and the emails that were released this week laid bare the mentality of the Walker associates and their actions to work on political campaigns while being paid as state workers. It is a bit amazing that Governor Walker has remained untouched by the prosecutors even though many of these emails that detail not only illegal campaign activities, but some alarming racist and sexist comments, were also sent to him. (more…)
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
With many reports becoming all to familiar with state sponsored censorship of internet traffic users in these nations are engaged in a cat and mouse game with a government that is showing increasing levels of sophistication and legislative muscle. The tactics often used include filtering objectionable material, firewalling targeted IP addresses, tracing data back to individuals and sanctioning those individuals, and creating a system of fear generally in which the public is dissuaded into engaging in free speech.
The common element in these electronic censorship measures is that the government controls access via the physical structure of the network. They are able to do this through land based infrastructure. But what if these physical vulnerabilities to free speech and press were removed and instead replaced with broadcast satellite systems that are immune from filtering and geo-locating individuals?
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
I’m sure many of you have read or heard about Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable. If these two companies merge, Comcast would then become the cable service provider for one third of the households in the United States. It would also give Comcast “a virtual monopoly in 19 of the 20 largest media markets.” In a press release dated February 13, 2014, Michael Copps, the special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative and former FCC Commissioner, said, “This is so over the top that it ought to be dead on arrival at the FCC. The proposed deal runs roughshod over competition and consumer choice and is an affront to the public interest.” Copps added that the $45 billion deal “would turn the already oversized Comcast empire into a colossus. The combined firms would have the muscle to push competitors out of the marketplace, leaving consumers exposed to continuing price hikes and declining levels of service.”
Copps appeared on Democracy Now! recently. He told Amy Goodman the following:
…This is the whole shooting match. It’s broadband. It’s broadcast. It’s content. It’s distribution. It’s the medium and the message. It’s telecom, and it’s media, too. And it just would confer a degree of control over our news and information infrastructure that no company should be allowed to have. And all of this is happening in a market where consumer prices are going up and up and up, and competition is going down, down, down.