The CIA is in a rare confrontation with the Senate Intelligence Committee, a committee widely viewed as a rubber stamp for the intelligence community and headed by Senator Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein has been ridiculed for her defense of the intelligence services, attacks on whistleblowers, and support for the expansion of surveillance operations. Feinstein also helped cover up past intelligence scandals from the torture program to the recent alleged perjury by National Intelligence Chief James Clapper. After dismissing concerns over the surveillance of ordinary citizens, Feinstein is now dealing with surveillance of her own committee and staff. Staff members allege that the CIA violated core constitutional and statutory protections by monitoring their computers in an oversight investigation. The CIA has accused Senate staff members of sneaking out classified documents — documents that the staff say prove that the CIA lied to the Committee in its investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogation and detention program.
Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
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.
What is fascinating about the utter failure of our duopoly of two parties is how they have failed to even do the little things rights. You would hope that, while wasting hundreds of billions, the two parties could at least offer a modicum of help for citizens. This week’s report from Ookla Speedtest offers one clear example. The United States ranked behind Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay. We are 31st in the world.
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.
The persecution of homosexuals continues in Nigeria with four young men convicted of homosexual relations and flogged on in open court. The judges and lawyers watched as the men (aged 20 to 22) were laid prostrate on the floor, stripped, and whipped on their buttocks in a demonstration of Sharia justice. The sadomasochistic nature of the punishment appears to have escaped the onlookers. While a crowd outside tried to grab the men to kill them, the court explained that stoning was not needed since the men admitted to homosexual acts previously but said that they were no longer engaging in such relations.
We have another towering success of the “zero tolerance” rules applied blindly in our schools. Ohio school officials have finally captured and suspended Nathan Entingh, 10, after he pulled a finger gun out at school. That’s right, another finger gun suspension. While these cases have been widely denounced as insane, school officials remain undeterred and continue to hammer children with nonsensical actions. To complete this utter insanity, the family then received a letter informing them that Nathan had been found with a “level 2 look alike firearm.”
We recently discussed the disturbing allegations directed against an Australian MP who dumped pollutants into the Great Barrier Reef with impunity. The case raised questions over how powerful mining interests are overwhelming environmental concerns, even in the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Now, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has shocked many around the world with a speech to the lumber industry that not only promises to stop the establishment of any new national parks but commits his government to advancing the interests of the industry.
Below is my column today in USA Today on the ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over a ban at a California high school of students wearing tee-shirts with American flags during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo. The opinion is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3790.
We have repeatedly discussed local planning boards that trash their own (and our) heritage by approving development of battlefields and other historic sites (here and here). Real estate and development interests often stack these boards to guarantee such results. The latest controversy is centered in Lake George, New York where historians and tourists often come to see the site of the battle in the French and Indian War. Farmers rallied at this stop to fight for their homes and many fell and were buried in and around a critical ravine. Despite objections from historians and experts, the town of Lake George (and specifically its planning board) gave permission to businessman Anthony Tomasovic to dump tons of fill and cut down trees to allow him to develop the land. Notably, he has not even stated how he would develop it. The town just opened up the historic site to be filled in and cut down . . . just in case Tomasovic could use some flat land.
Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan are again expressing their moral outrage over the effort of the international community to vaccinate their children against polio. In the latest case, at least 12 security officials were killed and nine others injured in an ambush on a clearly marked medical convoy in the Jamrud area of the Khyber tribal region. It appears that both murder and denying children polio vaccines are viewed by these men as a pure expression of faith and morality.
The Syrian rebels have continued their crusade to bring Islamic law to rural areas of that country. In the latest atrocity, a Syrian spokesman narrated an amputation of a hand by a man that the rebels said asked to punished for theft “in order to cleanse his sins.” In the twisted mind of these extremists, the video was supposed to show the purity and righteousness of Islam as a sword is used to sever the hand of the man.
The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a “self-described” conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., happens to be a shareholder in Apple. NCPPR has not been happy with Apple’s environmental initiatives. According to Chris Taylor (Mashable), Apple has made great improvements “in its use of renewable energy” since Tim Cook took over as CEO. Taylor said, “More than three-quarters of the company’s facilities worldwide, including all of its data centers and its Cupertino HQ, now run on solar, wind, geothermal or hydro power, up from about a quarter under Jobs.” Just last year, Cook hired former EPA head Lisa Jackson “to lead the company’s sustainability efforts.”
In a written statement prior to Apple’s recent annual shareholder meeting, NCPPR’s general counsel Justin Danhof said, “We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards. This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender.” According to Fortune, NCPPR “was pushing a shareholder proposal that would have required Apple to disclose the costs of its sustainability programs and to be more transparent about its participation in ‘certain trade associations and business organizations promoting the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability’…” Bryan Chaffin (The Mac Observer) said that the NCPPR proposal was “rooted in the premise that humanity plays no role in climate change.” He also noted that there was language in the proposal that “advanced the idea that profits should be the only thing corporations consider.” During the shareholder meeting, NCPPR urged Apple CEO Tim Cook and the board “to pledge that Apple wouldn’t pursue any more environmental initiatives that didn’t improve its bottom line.”
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.
Posted in Bizarre, Politics, Society, tagged e-Cigarettes, Electronic Cigarettes, Marijuana Tax, Small Business, Smoking, Tax Protest, Taxation, Tobacco Tax, Vapor Shops, Washington Legislature, Washington State on 1, March 1, 2014 | 37 Comments »
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In the seemingly endless hunger to tax everything under the clouds the Washington Legislature is considering placing a 95% wholesale tax on electronic cigarettes and supplies. Currently retail sales of e-cigarettes are taxed as ordinary sales tax where as tobacco products are taxed at the highest wholesale tax rate in the United States.
Not to be pushed out of the tax racket, the various families at the state legislature are trying to make sure their interests are “protected”.
Meet Josh Miller. He’s a young Republican state legislator from Heber Springs, Arkansas. He took office in 2013. Miller also manages a rental property business. More than a decade ago, he was paralyzed when he broke his neck in a catastrophic car accident. Fortunately, Miller hasn’t been confined to an unproductive life because of his accident and subsequent paralysis.
More about Miller from the Arkansas Times:
Miller, 33, was on an alcohol-fueled drive with a friend about 11 years ago (he can’t remember who was driving) when their pickup plunged off a ravine near Choctaw. He was rescued, but suffered a broken neck and was paralyzed. Miller was uninsured. What young, fit man needs health insurance, he thought then. (He had some reason to know better. Not long before, he’d broken his hand in a fight and had to refuse the recommended surgery to fix the injuries properly because he was uninsured.)
Months of hospitalization and rehabilitation followed, including a long stretch in intensive care at St. Vincent Infirmary. There was a $1 million bill. Medicaid paid most of it. Miller was placed on disability and checks began. In time, between Medicaid and Medicare, all his health costs were covered by the federal government. For that reason, he need not be among the 82 Arkansas legislators (61 percent of the body) who enjoy heavily subsidized and comprehensive state employee health insurance.
Posted in Academics, Bizarre, Politics, Society, tagged California, Centinela Valley School District, Executive Compensation, Jose Fernandez, Public Employee Compensation, School Boards, Taxes on 1, March 1, 2014 | 13 Comments »
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In the Los Angeles area a quickly drawn school board meeting demanded by members of the public, a hearing was held on the total compensation package of Centinela Valley Union High School District Superintendent Jose Fernandez. The package with salary, benefits, and perks for the calendar year 2013 amounted to $663,365.00. The school district has 6,600 students enrolled. This compares, or rather contrasts, with that of John Deasey, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District who received a total compensation package of $309,997.00 and enrollment of 650,000 students. President Obama receives a compensation package of $569,000.00
In addition to Jose’s base salary the compensation package included a loan of $910,000.00 to purchase a residence in the affluent Ladera Heights neighborhood with a term of 40 years and an annually compounded interest rate of 2%, half the prevailing market rate at the time.
Is this a compensation package commensurate with the talent brought to the school district or another example of news reports of questionable public employee compensation endemic in California as of late? Much more intrigue follows.
There is an interesting ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over a ban at a California high school of students wearing tee-shirts with American flags during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo. The court ruled in favor of the school out of concern for potential racial violence. We previously discussed this controversy. I strongly disagree with the holding and the logic. The opinion is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3790 .
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).
This morning I will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 am. (I hope to post other stories after I return from Congress this afternoon) The hearing is entitled “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws” and will explore the options for Congress in resisting the encroachment of executive power. I was critical of such encroachment under Professor George W. Bush and I believe that danger has grown under President Barack Obama. UPDATE: Here is the video link to the testimony.
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 Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor
“This bill is not about allowing discrimination. This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”
-Arizona State Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R), on SB 1062.
Assaults on the civil rights of homosexuals and the acceptance of gay marriage have been the focus of a number of state legislatures. The most recent lunacy is a bill in Arizona that now awaits action by Gov. Brewer. The bill amends sections of the Arizona Revised Statutes by incorporating provisions that effectively insulate many forms of grossly discriminatory conduct from legal consequence if done under the cloak of religion. This is accomplished in three steps. First, the bill defines “exercise of religion” to include “the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” Second, the bill expands the definition of “person” to include “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” I refer to this as the “Hobby Lobby” amendment. Finally, the bill prohibits, with a strict scrutiny exception, any “state action” that substantially burdens the free exercise of religion even if that state action is a law of general application.
I anticipate that the governor will veto this atrocity, not as a matter of constitutional principle, but out of concern that enactment of the law would further harm Arizona’s reputation and economic interests. But it is nonetheless disturbing that legislators would willingly employ a fundamental freedom as a weapon against a disfavored group of citizens. (more…)
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.
Last week, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee “ramped up his anti-union rhetoric” in hopes of persuading workers at Volkswagen AG’s plant in Chattanooga to vote against representation by the United Auto Workers. According to Reuters, on February 12th, Corker said he had been “assured” that if workers at the Volkswagen plant in his hometown rejected representation by UAW, the company would “reward the plant with a new product to build.” Bernie Woodall of Reuters said that Corker dropped that “bombshell” on the “first of a three-day secret ballot election of blue-collar workers” at the Chattanooga plant. The most troubling part—as I see it—is that Corker’s claim actually ran “counter to public statements by Volkswagen…”
The following day, Corker said that he was “very certain that if the UAW is voted down,” the automaker would announce new investment in the plant “in the next couple weeks.” It seems Corker hadn’t heard—or chose to ignore—a statement made earlier by Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW Chattanooga, “that there was ‘no connection’ between the vote at its three-year-old Tennessee plant and a looming decision on whether VW will build a new crossover vehicle there or in Mexico.”
There is an interesting development in gun technology this week with the announcement of the release of the first so-called “smart gun” to hit the market. The Smart System iP1, a .22-caliber pistol made by the German gun-maker Armatix GmbH, can only function with an accompanying wristwatch. As explained below, this gun and similar new models in the works could have an impact on torts liability for gun manufacturers.
We have yet another report of the mind boggling waste and mismanagement by the Defense Department in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the most recent investigation, the U.S. government continues to hand out no-bid contracts worth billions to companies with histories of ripping off the U.S. taxpayer. One foreign company, Supreme Foodservice should be remained Supreme Fraudservice after the company based in Switzerland overcharged the government by $757 million. Nevertheless, the company has been given contracts worth more than $5 billion to feed the troops in Afghanistan.
There is an interesting case before the California Supreme Court on the liability of hosts for guests at parties where a cover-charge is required. California law immunizes hosts who serve alcohol to intoxicated guests, but these parties involve payment that creates an ambiguity in the scope of the state law. The case involves Jessica Manosa, who was 20 years old when she hosted a party at her parents’ rental home and charged $3 to $5 to strangers. One of those guests proceeded to drink too much and ran over another guest, Andrew Ennabe (left), the Cal State Fullerton student.
There is an interesting legal ethics case out of New York involving Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (left) and his girlfriend, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (right). It appears that Sliwa, now a radio host making some $400,000 annually, is in the midst of a messy divorce after being accused of adultery. He has been sending confidential legal communications without realizing that his wife, Mary Sliwa was being blind copied on the messages. Paul Siegert, her lawyer, however, insists that it is the fault of Curtis Sliwa and neither he nor his client had any obligation to let him know of the breach of confidentiality or refrain from reading the confidential communications.
We have another highly disturbing case involving a police officer who abused and arrested a citizen for recording an encounter. I have previously written about the first amendment right to videotape officers. The courts have consistently upheld this right despite efforts of prosecutors like Anita Alvarez in Cook County to put citizens in jail for such recording. However, police officers continued to misrepresent the law and seize cameras or threaten citizens with arrest. In a cellphone recording (available here), Florida mother Brandy Berning is roughed up and arrested by Broward Sheriff Deputy William O’Brien after he tries to seize her cellphone as evidence of the crime of recording him.
Rep. Gail Finney, a Democrat from Wichita, has created a bit of a stir in Kansas with new legislation that would allow parents, teachers and caregivers to spank children hard enough to leave redness or bruising. While most parents assume that they already have such authority, Finney is worried that physical punishment and restraint is increasingly being viewed as a form of abuse. It raises an interesting question of whether societal standards have changed to the point that the old-time spanking is now a questionable practice from a legal perspective. Notably, the bill would actually limit the number and kind of spanks allowed to parents.
Below is my column today in The Chicago Tribune (including the original last paragraph and a couple lines that were cut in editing). I commented on this controversy yesterday but had to run something back home in Chicago. As someone who believes in pluralism in society and pizza, I am willing to accept both thin and deep pizza as equally worthy members of the pizza family. In this sense, pizza is part of a living culinary kitchen that changes in its scope and meaning. On closer examination, Scalia’s definitional approach is as thin as the crust of his New York style pizza.
Remember former Chicago Representative Mel Reynolds? If you recall, he resigned from his congressional seat in 1995 after he was convicted of 12 counts of statutory rape, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. Well, he is back in the news after an arrest in Zimbabwe. You guessed it. He is charged with allegedly possessing pornographic material and violating immigration laws.
Through the years, I have put up with a lot from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who I have always said has retained an admirable level of consistency and intellectual honesty in his views even though I often disagree with him. Nevertheless, I have criticized his conduct in public, including his enthusiastic embrace of being a conservative “celebrity justice” (here and here), shocking elitism in speaking with law students, and making public comments on issues before the Court (here and here). Yet, I have always tempered this criticism with a degree of respect for Scalia’s consistent adherence to a jurisprudential foundation that is missing with some of his other colleagues. However, he has finally gone too far. I am done. This week, Scalia did his usual ill-considered comments about issues before the Court but added in a speech in Chicago (my home town) at the Union club about Chicago-Style pizza. To the boos of the audience, Scalia declared that Chicago-Style pizza is not pizza but some form of “tomato pie.” It is not just injudicious but downright sacrilegious. In my view, Scalia has crossed the line into potentially impeachable conduct in his attack on this highest form of pizza and should be removed faster than one of those pathetic New York wafers that people fold and call pizza.
Russia appears to be looking at a new cause for protesters who are seething with anger. No, it is not over Putin’s rollback on free speech or the criminalization of open displays of homosexuality. Women in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are rising in anger over a trade ban on lacy lingerie. The ban prevents the importation, manufacture, or sale of any underwear containing less than 6 percent cotton. It is not clear if Putin’s infamous police units will begin panty raids in addition to their press raids, but the law has many knickers in a knot.
Believe or not, it has been 25 years since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death fatwa for Salman Rushdie — promising paradise and reward to anyone who killed the author simply because he wrote a book with what was viewed as blasphemous to Islam. For civil libertarians, it was a defining moment where Islam was pitted against the most basic and cherished values of free speech. The world was shocked by the decision even from the radical Iranian government. However, we have not heard much of the fatwa in years. Just to prove that the Islamic clerics remain as fanatical and anti-speech as they were in 1989, senior cleric Ahmad Khatami renewed the call to kill Rushdie and declared that the “historical fatwa” is “as fresh as ever.” What is clear is that, while the world views the fatwa as an example of religious extremism and insanity, the Islamic cleric remain proud of the death order as a pure expression of Islamic law and values.
We have previously discussed how many Democrats and liberals have stayed relatively silent as the Obama Administration has launched attacks on privacy, press freedoms, and civil liberties. In addition President Obama has engaged in military interventions, declared the right to kill citizens on his own authority, refused to investigate the U.S. torture program, and repeatedly violated the separation of powers. Now, we can add the violation of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality. Once again, the disclosure came as a result not of congressional oversight or Executive reforms, but the Snowden disclosures.
I previously blogged on an oral argument before Judge Richard Posner where I felt he had shown a surprising antagonism toward privacy and a civil liberties lawyer. Given my respect for Posner as a brilliant academic, I was surprised to read of his open dismissal of arguments that later prevailed in the court. Now, Posner is again the news with a heated exchange with a lawyer, Matthew Kairis, who he said was talking over his questions and refusing to direct questions with direct answers. The case is Univ. of Notre Dame v. Kathleen Sebelius. The oral argument tape below presents an interesting example of how lawyers respond to aggressive questioning from the bench in such arguments.
Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Minister Dan Jørgensen has signed a new regulation that bans religious slaughter of animals. The move has outraged Jewish and Muslim leaders but Mr Jørgensen publicly declared that “animal rights come before religion.” The new law bars slaughterhouses from allowing Muslim and Jewish leaders from killing animals without first stunning them. Muslims and Jewish religions believe that God only allows for the consumption of Halal or Kosher meat that involves the slitting of the throat of animals. Animal rights advocates insist that these religious rituals are cruel to animals.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
Is there anything more fundamental to a democracy or democratic republic then the ability of its citizens to vote for their representatives at every level of government? The privilege or as many state, the right to vote is essential for citizens to control who is running the local and state and national governments and controlling what direction they want their community and country to go in.
As I write this article, there are groups and indeed, national political parties attempting to restrict the right to vote and restrict the early voting opportunities and attempting to restrict the ability of registered citizens to vote at all. In the past few national elections, we all witnessed the horror stories of people waiting for hours in line to vote on election day. Instead of increasing early voting days and installing additional voting machines in crowded precincts, just the opposite seems to be happening. (more…)
Florida Trooper Who Stopped Speeding MPD Officer Files Lawsuit After Alleged Harassment By Other Officers
Posted in Congress, Courts, Justice, Politics, Torts, tagged Donna Watts, Driver Records, Drivers License, FHP, Florida Highway Patrol, Harassment, Miami Police Department, NLETS, Privacy, Public Records on 1, February 16, 2014 | 18 Comments »
Submitted By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Many are aware of the incident in October of 2011 when the Florida Highway Patrol stopped a speeding Miami Police Department vehicle operating without emergency equipment, weaving through traffic and reaching speeds up to 120 MPH. The MPD officer driving claimed to be late for an off-duty assignment at an area school. The police officer was eventually fired by Miami PD. Dash-cam video was uploaded to Youtube and witnessed by many. The incident also made national headlines. The Miami PD officer involved had no emergent or law enforcement justification for driving at this speed and doing so without emergency lighting is considered hazardous. Dash-cam video quotes the trooper as saying one of the reasons for her concern was that a day prior a police vehicle was stolen and was involved in a tragic incident.
Now the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper, Donna Jane Watts, has filed a civil suit against several officers and police agencies alleging her driver license information had been unlawfully accessed and that she had been subjected to harassment by other law enforcement officers due the incident involving the Miami Police Department officer.
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Somewhere out there Mildred Loving must be smiling and wondering how things could change so much since 1967. You might recall Ms. Loving as the African-American and Virginia resident who had the audacity to marry a white man and then procreate in the Virginia of the 1960s. Charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, an anti-miscegenation law which criminalized marriages between members of different races, the case was heard in Hanover Courthouse, where liberty’s most eloquent spokesman, Patrick Henry, once argued the famous Parson’s Case. Circuit Court Judge Leon Bazile, whose portrait still hangs in the hallway of the new courthouse, sentenced the couple to one year in prison suspended upon the condition they would leave their home state. In doing so, he announced to the world that Virginia would not step so quickly away from its historical racism:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
(NOTE: Correction and Update Below)
A Missouri lawmaker has proposed legislation that would make learning about evolution in public schools “optional.” State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), the main sponsor of House Bill 291—also known as the “Missouri Standard Science Act”—introduced the bill in January. Brattin told KCTV, a local station, that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.” He continued, “Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side. It is an indoctrination because it is not objective approach.”
The Kansas City Star reported that Brattin said, “…forcing students to study the natural selection theories developed by Charles Darwin a century and a half ago can violate their religious faith. It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs.” Critics of Brattin’s bill say his legislation “would allow religious faith in biblical explanations to crowd out sound science.”
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Utah Legislator Greg Hughes is proposing a law he believes will address successfully some of the DUI incidents that happen within the state. The proposal is in the working stage and has been under several revisions but in essence the device would be installed in bars under incentives from the state so that bar patrons may use the device to test their sobriety levels so that they may make informed choices on whether to drive or not. The measure includes an immunity from civil and criminal liability on bar owners if a customer’s breath alcohol level is high and the customer drives away and the data would not be available to law enforcement to provide a hesitation free attraction.
While the goal of the device is certainly laudable, could the devices be counter productive as indicated by experience with law enforcement breath test devices and their shortcomings?
International Humanist And Ethical Union Publishes Comprehensive Global Report On Athiest and Non-Religious Rights
Posted in Constitutional Law, Criminal law, Free Speech, International, Justice, Politics, Religion, Society, tagged Athiesm, Discrimination, Germany, Humanists, Iceland, Ireland, Laws of Nations, Liberty, Niger, non-religious, Religious Freedom, World Reports on 1, February 15, 2014 | 10 Comments »
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
While many, primarily Islamic, countries have received much press regarding flagrant abuses of religious and non-religious persons or views, seven of which have death penalty offenses for crimes such as apostasy, the true impact for most of the worlds citizens are not as stark but can be often a suffer a form of punishment, repression and imprisonment of some kind for their beliefs.
The international Humanist and Ethical Union published a broad and comprehensive study of world governments listing laws, social constraints, and customs of government for nearly each nation. The study provides a deep insight into how even subtle restrictions on atheists and subscribers to differing religions or non-religions can have a chilling effect on the expressions of their citizens and it is often this subtlety that can become a form of suppression of dissent in surprising areas.
We have previously discussed the attack of President Obama on press freedom. As with the comprehensive attack on privacy, there has been little outcry from Democratic or liberal voters to the placing of journalists under surveillance or the treatment of reporters as potential criminals for receiving information from whistleblowers. Even those who express disappointment have not let these policies alter their continued support for the Administration. Many simply buy the White House argument that the other guys are worse. Well, international groups view the matter a bit more objectively and this month released a report that should be an utter embarrassment for every American. The United States — once the world champion of press freedoms — have called to forty-sixth in the world, according to the World Press Freedom Index. The drop is tied directly to the anti-media policies of President Obama.