... personally I think it's the refusing to submit part that is causing him problems:
We obtained official court documents from both sides of this case. On one hand, the arresting officer from the Logan City Police Department, James Adkins, claims that when Jared refused to stop talking, that hindered his ability to do his job, hence, the obstruction charge. On the other side, Ben White points out that nowhere in the arresting officer's petition, does it mention Jared ever making any threats or acting in a violent manner.
So he wore an NRA t-shirt to school and refused to stop talking when the school officials infringed his 1st Amendment rights by demanding that he remove the shirt. This is alleged to justify arresting him and charging him with obstruction of justice.
Justice would be firing everyone involved in this case so far, and then charging them with obstruction of civil rights under color of law.
The fox wants to guard the henhouse...
... or at least that's what comes to mind when Eric Holder, famous lately for personally signing the authorization to wiretap at least three reporters and overseeing the wiretapping of hundreds more at the Associated Press, says we should pass a media shield law
. He says a law like that would protect reporters from people like him who will abuse the law. And he's right: such a law might well protect journalists from DoJ abuse. It might be simpler for Holder to simply refuse to approve abusive warrant requests from his subordinates, but that horse has fled the barn.
But that raises an important question from Senator and Dick Durbin: Who is a journalist, and why should they deserve special protection?
"But here is the bottom line -- the media shield law, which I am prepared to support, and I know Sen. Graham supports, still leaves an unanswered question, which I have raised many times: What is a journalist today in 2013? We know it's someone that works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who is tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection? We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago."
The First Amendment was clearly written to protect everyone, not just a special group of people. Media shield laws give special protection to government approved speech. That means the government can take away that protection for speakers it doesn't approve it, which tends to shut them up, or deny it altogether for those who it suspects would say things it doesn't like.
Government should not be in the business of approving journalists. Free speech is free speech. Every one of us should be protected from government agents listening to our phone conversations without a warrant.
During a discussion on Monday about the Justice Department tracking and snooping into Fox News reporter James Rosen's personal emails, Fox News host Shepard Smith offered another, related claim. The network's computer servers were also looked into, he told Judge Andrew Napolitano. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office denied it.They hacked Sharyl Attkisson's computer
"When they do issue this subpoena," Smith noted, "by law, they have to tell you they've done it, don't they? I mean, they went into our computer servers at Fox News, went around around our security, pulled things out, and didn't tell us they'd done so."
We have been living in a police state since Obama took office, and we are only now finding out just how bad it has become.
McCain-Feingold struck down in Citizens United
The Supreme Court has issued a decision striking down the vast majority of the Campaign Finance Reform Act, normally termed McCain-Feingold for its two primary authors. This is a good decision that restores the right to free political speech. But our politicians are already promising
to ensure that new restrictions on political speech are enacted
. Why can't we have politicians who respect free speech and seek to advance it, rather than pass laws that are offensive to the Constitution and the First Amendment?
It's worth noting that the decision was 5-4. The 4 dissenting votes came from the so-called liberal wing of the court. It used to be that the rule of thumb was "vote Republican for economic freedom, and Democrat for social freedom." That's clearly changed. The new rule seems to be, "vote Democrat for tyranny now, vote Republican for slightly less tyranny." But occasionally they do get it right.
... specifically, a legislator in Kentucky who thinks anonymous comments should be banned
-- and websites that allow comments without recording the commenter's full name, full address, and email address should be fined up to $1000 per occurance.
Worse, the man admits
that there are obvious first-amendment issues with the proposed law, and submits it anyway.
The purported justification is "online bullying". If a legislator is willing to fly in the face of the First Amendment for something as, frankly, trivial
as "online bullying", then how can we possibly trust him to respect the Constitution when it comes to real crimes?
For that matter, how can we trust him to craft realistic solutions to difficult problems when he apparantly is unable to make the cognitive leap between requiring all commenters to include a name and address
and commenters providing false names and addresses
? The only useful evidentiary information in a case like this would be the ip address of the commenter, which is almost always stored already.
NOTE: I draw a distinction between "online bullying", which invokes images of lunch money extorted from pre-teen youth, and the more serious threats that many others have received as part of their online activity, primarily but not exclusively women. While I do consider such threats much more serious than kids dissing each other on social networking sites, I don't believe even those more serious threats are sufficient to make anonymous speech illegal. If you make a threat that is taken seriously, online or off, you can generally be found and held accountable. That's the way it should be.
UPDATE: Some clarification is probably useful here. Threats aren't protected speech. It's generally possible to determine, with some effort and legal assistance (subpeona power), who posted a particular comment -- or at least which ISP account
was used to post it, which often but not always points to a single person. But it's not EASY to do this, and it's possible for a technically-savvy user to take measures to defeat it. To my mind, this is just about right; most people can be casually-anonymous simply by not posting their name with their comments, yet can be held accountable with non-trivial effort, while those willing to put in the effort to be truly anonymous can still do so.
Demonstrators would be barred from
disrupting military funerals at national cemeteries under legislation
approved by Congress and sent to the White House.
measure, passed by voice vote in the House Wednesday hours after the
Senate passed an amended version, specifically targets a Kansas church
group that has staged protests at military funerals around the country,
claiming that the deaths were a sign of God's anger at U.S. tolerance
CNN tells us
that our government has decided that the First Amendment is no longer the law of the land. You may recall that, in addition to protecting the freedom of speech, that Amendment also protects freedom of assembly
While our government has long chosen not to notice it's own aggressive violations of the Constitution, this law -- passed by both the House and the Senate, awaiting only the presidential signature -- aspires to new heights of offense. We have seen protesters disrupting military funerals in shameful and disrespectful ways, but how much more shameful is an Act of Congress that spits on the principles those men died for?
If Republicans think that this bill will buy them votes from the military in November, I suspect they will be surprised.
Hat tip to View From The Porch
Some people have suggested that the law criminalizing "annoying" speech on the web isn't really all that bad. Eugene Volokh says otherwise, convincingly
. It's a pity I didn't have time for any annoying speech back when this item was current, but just in case you missed it...
government concluded its "Cyber Storm" wargame Friday, its biggest-ever
exercise to test how it would respond to devastating attacks over the
Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and
confirmed parts of the worldwide simulation challenged government
officials and industry executives to respond to deliberate
misinformation campaigns and activist calls by Internet bloggers,
online diarists whose "Web logs" include political rantings and musings
about current events.
Deliberate misinformation campaigns and activist calls?I do not like this exercise
. It sounds too much like an excuse for propaganda. Free speech is not a threat from which a government should defend us.
I'm glad I don't live there
... and no, it's not an anti-spam bill
. It's an application of the telephone harassment laws to the world of the Internet, and it just doesn't work; not least because communications on the Internet are by default reasonably anonymous and damn near anything can be construed to "annoy". Like many other laws, the only hope of reasonable application comes from the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in choosing who to charge, which only reminds me of the words of Ayn Rand on the nature of government power:
"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is
the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren't enough
criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime
that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
That is exactly what we are seeing today. This disturbs me, but I am not sure how to stop it, much less reverse the trend. What we have been doing doesn't seem to have been very successful, except in replacing the labels applied to the party in power; their policies on liberty do not appear to have shifted significantly.
Lots more on this from Anarchangel
. And a word to the wise: "cyberstalking", no matter how much the media loves to talk about it, is nothing more than being annoying online. You can't kill someone over the internet
. Making real threats of harm is illegal regardless of medium.
Well here we are. The time right before the DNC convention and what do mine eyes see? Three layers of chain link fence topped with the best barbed wire our government can buy. I would like to say more but the image of free speech, behind fences, under the spot lights, hidden under a half built bridge is upsetting me a lot.
I'm honestly not sure what purpose could possibly be served by this particular tactic. Do the secret service imagine that someone intending mischief would meekly enter the free speech zone, or identify himself as an protester? How much more likely are they to identify themselves as a reporter, or a tourist, or anything other than a label that will get them locked in a cage?
If it's not a legitimate safety concern, then it can only be for political reasons -- keeping protesters out of sight of the news cameras. And that's just disturbing. All Americans should be rightly outraged at this treatment.
The recent proposal outlined by The U.K.'s National Crime Squad (NCS) to monitor Internet chat rooms is not a workable solution, according to Internet chat network owners and administrators. In their statement of 9 June, 2004 the NCS stated that "Uniformed Officers" will enter certain chat rooms, primarily those chat rooms frequented by adults seeking underage children, and have an icon attached to their nickname to identify themselves as law enforcement officers. The F.B.I. is also named as one of the agencies participating in this proposal.
Another IRC Operator brought up the issue of censorship and the sheer volume of chat channels available. "It sounds like a good idea. However, it could be a first step towards censoring chatrooms. There are many networks (EFnet, for example) that pride themselves on absolute freedom for users to do what they want to. With the exception of damaging the network, of course.
That aside, I don't see how it could be feasible to police chatrooms. According to SearchIRC.com, there are nearly 600,000 chatrooms on public IRC networks alone. It would take a lot of "beat cops" to police it." (Ed. Note. Operator is not affiliated with EFnet)
Yep. It's For the Children?. CNN has details on the idea.
While it's certainly true that there are some seriously disturbing chatrooms out there, this proposal is unlikely to have any real effect even if put in practice. Why? Simple: criminals don't commit crimes in front of uniformed cops. They go somewhere the uniformed cop isn't. They can do this because of the uniform; they can see the cop and they can choose to leave.
And if you think that relatively normal people won't make this choice, how many teenagers clam up when someone's parent enters a room in real life? If you think that they won't do even more when a police officer wanders in, you're probably doing some kind of illegal drug and won't stick around the chatroom to find out.
At this point, you may be thinking that this proposal will kill internet chat completely. And you might be right, if there was a police officer in every chatroom. But we're talking about the Internet here; there are potentially infinite chatrooms, and every time the police start hanging out in one, anyone who's ever done drugs or engaged in a bit of risque chat with an online girlfriend or downloaded an mp3 is going to go elsewhere. Fast. And there are an infinite number of "elsewheres" to go.
There are definitely not an infinite number of police officers, and I would hope most police officers have better things to do than hang out in internet chatrooms. We've got people trying to kill us with airplanes, remember?
So I predict that this effort, if actually implemented, will do absolutely... nothing. Except, perhaps, chill speech. But then, that was the real point of the whole thing, wasn't it? Not actually catching criminals -- that requires pesky things like evidence of a crime -- but chilling speech that the government, in the form of John Ashcroft, He Who Clothes Nude Statues, disapproves of.
If you think this sort of thing is only going to be aimed at predators, BTW, you are wrong.
U.S. regulators on Wednesday ruled tentatively in favor of an FBI and Justice Department proposal that would compel Internet broadband and VoIP providers to open their networks up to easy surveillance by law enforcement agencies.
At issue is the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), a federal law that mandates surveillance backdoors in U.S. telephone networks, allowing the FBI to start listening in on a target's phone calls within minutes of receiving court approval. Last March, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration jointly petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a ruling that cable modem companies and other broadband providers are also covered by the law.
Though the ruling was unanimous, two commissioners expressed concern that the FCC's interpretation of the 1994 law was precarious, and might later be overturned in the courts. "There are better was to build a system that will encourage judicial approval," said commissioner Michael Copps." As it is, the ruling is "too flush with tentative conclusions that stretch the statutory framework almost to tear," Copps said.
Yep, it's now official. All new technologies must include designed-in surveilance capability. It's time to get serious about encryption, folks -- the only way to stop the government from listening in is to make it impossible for them to listen in.
In theory, there's a public comment period on the implementation details, like how much time the providers are allowed to rework their networks. In practice, why comment? The decision's been made, the only thing left to debate is how much effort the government will require without any form of compensation. (Funny, they used to call that slavery).
In the meantime, surely we can generate some useful energy by harnessing the Founders as they spin in their graves.
Did you think that restrictions on "indecent" broadcast content wouldn't affect your viewing habits? Think again. The FCC recently ruled on a complaint filed by the "Parents Television Council" alleging indecent material broadcast on a popular television program. No, it wasn't Janet Jackson's breast. It was a program much closer to home for many people: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Yes, that's right. The Prom Queen of Vampire Staking is on the hit list of the Religious right.
While the Buffy series has made an effort to be edgy in some ways, there's absolutely no question in any reasonable person's mind about obscenity. It is (or was) one of the best things on TV precisely because it tackles hard issues and makes an effort to resolve them. There can be absolutely no question that the program has substantial merit. And yet... the rules allow for the complaint to be filed, and require the FCC to issue a formal ruling. Even though the ruling was in favor of the show, the FCC spent a year's worth of time investigating the complaint, writing reports, and generally being a beaurocratic threat hanging over the head of the show's producers.
That's a chilling effect. Even to raise the possibility of the large fines for "indecency" that the FCC is empowered (in violation of the First Amendment) to impose upon a show like Buffy is offensive. And just coincidentally, the program was canceled this year, the year after the complaint was filed, following a 6 year run. Was the decision to cancel the program related to the complaint? It's hard to say. The decision is a private one by the broadcaster and perhaps the show was due to expire regardless.
But we may never know for sure what speech we might have had, but for the power of the FCC. If the show lost its edge in the final season, can we rule out the possibility that the heavy hand of the government's censors had nothing to do with it?
Alphecca has some thoughts on media bias. Just to get us started, this Washington Post article takes a look at the problem.
I'm not a lawyer (but I play one on TV) so I really don't know the constitutionality of this modest proposal. It will never be possible to have unbiased reporting on TV, radio, and newspapers but I'd like to suggest a couple of ideas that might help.
I think it neither could, nor would, pass First Amendment scrutiny -- although a court that would neglect to bitchslap the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act into oblivion is rather unpredictable on that score.
If I'm not mistaken, financial planners or commentators in the media are required to disclose if they own any personal stake or stock in a company they are recommending.
Why not require the same disclosure from news reporters. All TV, radio and newspaper reporters would be required at the start of any broadcast or non-op-ed story regarding a political campaign to reveal if they've donated to or campaigned for any political candidate or party.
So Katie and Matt on the Today Show would be required at the top of each broadcast to fess-up to any contributions they've made to Democrats.
The regulations on financial planners are intended to prevent stock manipulation schemes, so that a supposed impartial advisor can't secretly recommend stocks he owns that are otherwise worthless. If I recall my history these laws were put into place after significant abuses.
The difference is benefit: newsreaders don't get any direct financial gain from electing a chosen President. They may well get indirect benefits from their ideology, but you can't point to their bank balance and call it a bribe. It's more subtle than that. Fairly obvious to a politically-aware individual who disagrees with the bias, to be sure, but much harder to prove in court.
Worse, who do you require disclosure from? The newsreaders? The whole production team? The individual reporters with each story? All of the above? Regardless, they'll drop the disclaimers in the credits and no one will notice, because no one needs to hear everyone on camera announcing their biases every 5 minutes. Furthermore, many of the "editorial employees" of news organizations are banned from making political contributions at all -- just as many journalists answer "independent" when asked which party affiliation they have. The illusion of independence is sufficient.
In addition, just as candidates are supposed to be provided with equal time on the airwaves, so too the Today Show (to use an example of a TV network that has badly abused their Democratic bias) would have to provide equal time to movies and books that attack one candidate or another.
So if the Today Show interviews four authors, each of which has anti-Bush books or movies, they would be required to provide similar interviews to authors with anti-Kerry books or movies. In addition, the interviews would have to be of approximately the same length and appear at about the same time of the day.
This proposal is the news-media version of affirmative action quotas. I need hardly explain to my audience why affirmative action is detrimental to the party it purportedly supports: suffice it to say that equal time does not ensure equal treatment.
Consider for example a candidate rocked by scandals over a long political career, competing against an upstart (such as, perhaps, Schwarzenegger) who does not have a long political history. If scandals concerning the established politician are covered heavily, but there are no scandals concerning the new face, is that media bias -- or an accurate reflection of the facts? What if there are verified, substantiated scandals concerning one candidate, but those concerning the otherwise are a partisan hack job made up out of whole cloth?
One of the services we expect journalists to provide is analysis; that is, we ask them to report to us what is important about a particular event, and often to compile a selection of important events for a news report. Bias can express itself in the selection of stories as easily as in their presentation; how can you give equal time to a story which is not reported at all? How can you apply fairness rules to a journalistic judgement about what stories are "news" and what stories aren't worth the time?
Obviously, you can't; it's a judgement call. If you don't like the judgements being made by a news program, you can start your own news program or try to influence the criteria used by the current programs. Viewers will pick which program to watch based on how closely that program's idea of "news" matches their own.
Furthermore, (and folks, I know this is all a silly fantasy that couldn't ever happen...) they would be required to have follow-ups to such "political" authors if conflicting information should be discovered or if the claims by that author are later found to be untrue. Example: The Today Show interviews Joe Wilson several times about his book and his claims that "Bush lied." They would then have to spend an equal amount of time examining the facts brought about by the 9/11 commission refuting Wilson's charges. The same requirements would apply to newspaper coverage including placement of contrary material on the same page number that the original charges were reported on.
And what about charges refutting the original refutation? Equality of advertising dollars to promote the original program versus promoting the refutation?
There are simply too many ways to subtly include bias. Any law that was passed to ensure fair reporting would simply encourage "journalists" to discover new loopholes.
Worse, it would actually damage the truly radical positions -- for example, the Libertarian Party. Will a news program run a report on the Libertarian party if, by equal time laws, they are then required to provide equal time to the Socialists, Communists, or Nazis? Of course not -- they just won't bother reporting on the Libertarians at all. And the Libertarians are the strongest proponents of true liberty today.
Lastly, since none of this could ever happen, why don't Republicans, or at least some conservative groups file lawsuits (take a page from the Democrats here...) and try to show that ABC, CBS, and NBC have NOT lived up to their promise to provide a proper balance to their news shows -- which to my mind says that they are not broadcasting for the good of the communities -- and that their FCC licenses should be revoked. This can't happen at the small affiliate level but certainly the five stations each network owns themselves could be brought under legal fire.
The problem with this is that there's no real legal case for it. You can't simply sue at the drop of a hat; you need to have a cause for action. While I haven't read the enabling statutes and regulations from the FCC, I doubt that "providing a proper balance" to news programming is involved. There are a lot of community-oriented requirements, like maintaining the emergency broadcast system, and there are requirements concerning "decency" that have recently gotten some attention, but political balance in reporting? I don't think those would fly.
You'd have to get an activist judge, and frankly, activist judges tend to be leftist.
And remember, there is a difference between a news show and a talk or political commentary show. If the networks are going to label their broadcasts as "news" then they must meet certain standards of equal time and fairness. And yes, Fox would have to follow the same rules.
Your mention of Fox brings up an important self-interested argument against your proposal. Imagine that the FCC, the agency charged with administering your proposed rules, was staffed with Democrats. Fox would have to follow the same rules, all right -- and end up broadcasting the same sort of biased output as the other networks. Why? Because the other networks would be setting the standard.
You can't have legally mandated "fair and balanced" programming because there is no objective legal standard to determine what the "center" is. The only thing you can do is let people choose what to watch, and encourage alternative media sources for those who don't feel the mainstream media is giving them what they want.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention in New York.
F.B.I. officials are urging agents to canvass their communities for information about planned disruptions aimed at the convention and other coming political events, and they say they have developed a list of people who they think may have information about possible violence. They say the inquiries, which began last month before the Democratic convention in Boston, are focused solely on possible crimes, not on dissent, at major political events.
This is one of those sticky areas. The FBI has a duty to investigate reports of planned crimes, even planned crimes that take place as part of a protest. Conversely they have a duty to be minimally intrusive to those who aren't involved in planning to commit crimes -- in other words, those who are just there to protest. Personally, I would err on the side of leniency for anything related to a political protest, because the chilling effect of having an interview with the FBI is dramatic. But that must be weighed against the fact that there are "anarchist" groups that go into protests with specific intent to commit violence.
With that said, it's hard to tell whether this is a legitimate investigation or a fishing expedition. In the case of the Democratic Convention's "Free Speech Zone", clearly they went too far; but we're not there yet. (In fact, an interesting question would be whether these same interviews were conducted before the Democratic Convention, and if so, were they reported?)
One other thing to consider. Recently Steven Den Beste wrote about the difference between guerilla tactics and terrorism. The short version is that attacks intended to directly harm the enemy are guerilla warfare; (classic) terrorism, on the other hand, is intended to provoke reprisals.
Leaving aside whether Al Qaeda is engaged in classic terrorism or something else, it seems clear to me that people who go into protest situations intending to commit violence are doing so in an effort to provoke a police response. In other words, they aren't trying to accomplish some beneficial goal with the protest, they are merely trying to start a riot. That's terrorism by the classic definition, and it's what these police tactics are trying to deal with.
Why would a classic terrorist want to provoke a reprisal? Simple: it's a no-win situation for the government. The terrorist gets support for his side from his own success and from the public anger about the reprisals. The government loses support from their own people for being unable to prevent the terrorist act, and again for the measures they take in response.
How big a threat is this? I don't know. But it's not necessarily as cut-and-dried a free speech issue as I would like it to be. If the operatives planning to disrupt the convention were affiliated with Al Qaeda no one would have any qualms about trying to pre-empt their actions. But since there is no affiliation, to my knowledge, there's less tolerance for this sort of tactic, even though the people the police are presumably looking for are using classic terrorist tactics.
And the people who are just there to protest peacefully are caught in the middle.
The title of this post refers to a blog from a soldier in Iraq, who posted journal entries describing his experiences. The entries were damn good, and provided a rare window into Iraq and the war effort for people who have never been there and likely never will. In fact, the blog was so good that it got media attention -- including at least one of the entries being read verbatim on NPR.
That got him noticed... not only by the media, but by his commanding officer. The CO was supportive, but being noticed in that manner can be a two-edged sword. Shortly after that, he posted a copy of the First Amendment. And today, the whole thing is gone, leaving only the words "Over and Out".
The conclusions to be drawn are obvious: someone, probably in his chain of command, said to yank the blog. Now, I can understand that the military needs to keep a lid on strategic, tactical, and technical information, but that's not what the guy was posting. My instinct is that the blog was yanked because of the attention it got from NPR.
Now, I think the military has the power to do that while a soldier is in active duty. I doubt that the soldier would appreciate a big stink being raised about this -- that kind of attention you don't want. But I think it's a shame that the American public have been denied this window into what's really going on, and I'd like to express my moral support for the soldier behind the blog. Good luck... come back and write us a book about it.
The Incumbent Protection Act has its first case where criminal charges were filed for political expression. A pair of radio talk show hosts have had a criminal complaint filed by the incumbent politician who they have been campaigning against. The LA Times has more details.
I tend to lean more right than left, but the campaign finance laws are unconstitutional and should have been voted down, vetoed, and finally, struck down.
Chinese authorities plan to use new technology to improve surveillance of mobile phone messages amid efforts to intensify policing of private communications, reports said Friday.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the campaign was aimed at cleaning up "pornographic, obscene and fraudulent" phone messages that have "infiltrated short messaging content."
According to the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, the campaign also aims to widen surveillance of political dissent.
The technology uses filtering algorithms created by the government-run Chinese Academy of Sciences to identify key words and combinations of words that might be associated with political rumors and "reactionary remarks," the group said.
The new surveillance systems can automatically alert police and keep records of suspect messages, it said.
Under the cover of cracking down on Spam, China will also be cracking down on political dissent by SMS. Send someone in China a text message to their cell phone, and if you pick the right words, you can probably get the police to stop by their house for a "chat".
One comment I get a lot from people who don't understand my views on government, and on this country, is the old adage: if you don't like it, why don't you move? And the answer is simple: I'm not leaving. I believe America is the last, best hope for freedom. We're not perfect, and there are other countries that do some things better. But overall... we're it. The buck stops here. Our ancestors bought their freedom with their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor; so too shall I. If we give up, it's a very short trip down the slippery slope to China's cell phone censorship. And that's just the beginning.
The California Supreme Court on Thursday considered whether to let stand the criminal conviction of a 15-year-old boy who was expelled from school and served 100 days in juvenile hall for writing a poem that included a threat to kill students.
The case weighs free speech rights against the government's responsibility to provide safety in schools after campus shootings nationwide.
Attorneys for the San Jose boy, identified as George T. in court records, described the poem as youthful artistic expression. One passage says: "For I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school." Another reads: "For I am Dark, Destructive & Dangerous."
"This is a classic case of a person expressing himself and trying to communicate his feelings through a poem," attorney Michael Kresser told the court, which gave no clear indication whether it would overturn the conviction.
While I realize that it's sometimes hard to tell a case of free speech and artistic expression from a case of a terroristic threat... if you're a government official, that is. This is why we have the First Amendment: speech cannot be a crime. The whole idea was to take the judgement call out of the hands of the government official, who will naturally make all his judgement calls so as to maximize the benefit to himself and to the government in general.
Under the First Amendment, this student and his parents might be asked a few questions about his poem. Likely his parents would search his room for weapons if they had any reason to be truly concerned. If they find weapons, or a plans to blow up the school, well, then maybe you have enough for a prison sentence. But if you don't find anything that suggests an actual plan, you have to respect the right to free speech that every citizen has.
At least, you would if the First Amendment was still valid. Lately the government seems to be attacking it with almost as much vigor as the Second.
Quibble about theaters and fire if you want, that's something else entirely.
In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.
Department officials say they will send "ripples" through an industry that has proliferated on the Internet and grown into an estimated $10 billion-a-year colossus profiting Fortune 500 corporations such as Comcast, which offers hard-core movies on a pay-per-view channel.
What a fucking waste of time. Pornography may not be socially respected speech, but it is still speech. And I have absolutely no doubt that there are better things for 32 prosecutors, investigators, and FBI agents to be doing than chasing after people who are exercising their right to speak freely. Like chasing terrorists, for example.
I could forgive Ashcroft his personal feelings on the issue. Those are personal choices. Congress passing laws on the matter is obscene, but hardly surprising. Ashcroft dedicating people to enforcing those laws in this manner is frankly sickening. We have terrorists to catch and a nascent nation to revitalize.
Secret Service agents questioned a high school student about anti-war drawings he did for an art class, one of which depicted President Bush's head on a stick. Another pencil-and-ink drawing portrayed Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading "End the war -- on terrorism." The 15-year-old boy's art teacher at Prosser High School turned the drawings over to school administrators, who notified police, who called the Secret Service.
Clearly the Secret Service (not to mention this poor kid's teachers) haven't ever heard of the First Amendment. Is a 15-year-old really that much of a threat?
To be honest I can't blame the Secret Service much. They got the call, they pretty much have to check it out. It's not like they went out and hunted this guy down deliberately, they were called in. The teachers, on the other hand, should clearly have known better.
The FCC (Federal Censorship Commission) is on a roll, radio station owners are in a state of near panic, and broadcasters are losing their livelihoods. Some FCC commissioners, most notably Michael Copp, (a Democrat, by the way), have decided that the FCC has a much broader roll to fill in monitoring and managing the content of radio and television broadcasts than previously imagined.
Americans suffering from AHD (Acute Hypersensitivity Disorder) are fueling the situation, eagerly writing letters and voicing complaints whenever they hear something come from their radio that offends them. A new right is being claimed, the right to not be offended. Politicians anxious to retain their positions of privilege and power in an election year goad the FCC on.
If you want to wear your ?Dump Dubya? button in Crawford, Tex., a few miles from the president?s ranch, make sure you get approval from the police chief. Wearing a political button could violate Crawford?s protest ordinance that requires a $25 permit and prior approval by police.
A Feb. 16 verdict by a six-person jury meeting in a rented recreation center room upheld the ordinance. Five peace activists stopped at a Crawford roadblock en route to protests near the president?s ranch last May were convicted of violating the city?s parade and procession law.
They were fined $200 to $500 and plan to appeal.
But increasing limits on protest aren?t limited to one-horse Texas towns with Bush memorabilia shops. Government surveillance and the ?criminalization of dissent? are growing and Americans need to be worried, say activists and civil liberties advocates.
There are a lot of things about the Bush administration that make me positively sick, and this is one of them.
Can you feel John Ashcroft's hot, predatory breath bearing down on your life and your box of vibrators and your adult DVD collection and snatching away your copy of "Weapons of A-- Destruction #2" and smacking you across the face with a Bible, all before skipping off to the dungeon to feed the flying monkeys?
This is the agenda. This is the renewed battle cry. The $10 billion porn industry is out of control, they say, and nothing -- not the HBO's fabulous late-night "Real Sex" series, not flirty juicy strip clubs, not your copy of "Bend Over Boyfriend," is safe from prosecution. Hey, it's just like the Taliban, only with more references to Hustler and fellatio!
What, too extreme? Not by much. Ashcroft already has a 32-person task force hard at work on the crackdown, a group of increasingly miserable, sexually benumbed guys who sit around for 10 hours a day watching porn videos and surfing porn Web sites and trolling for porn pictures and lurking in porn chat rooms and gathering huge lists and logs and databases of prosecutable material.
Talk about too much of a good thing.
A lot of people are uncomfortable talking about sex, and those same people are even more uncomfortable talking about the types of sex that some people enjoy and prefer. Most of the time, these people can get along because neither side particularly wants to talk about it. That's really the best solution, when you get right down to it; so long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and still alive at the end, there's not really any need to wear it on your sleeve.
But instead, sexual politics have become a playing card in the Bush administration's efforts to convince American conservatives that they
really are conservative.
It's a good way to grab headlines, that's for sure.
But, honestly, where's the harm? Where are the victims? Are the people making pornography victims? Not really; they are consenting adults, and they are generally paid for their efforts. The people watching? They aren't victims, they are paying for the privilege, and they are generally getting what they expect. There's nothing wrong with the free market there.
If you want victims of "pornography", you pretty much have three choices; you can bring out people who claim to be addicted to pornography, or you can talk about illegal acts associated with pornography (ie, child pornography, filming an unwilling/unsuspecting person), or you can talk about sexually transmitted disease.
The claim of addiction is pretty much self-defeating. Lots of legal things are addictive (caffeine, alcohol, for example). By nature, pornography can hardly be considered physically addictive; it's a psychological addiction only even if the existance of such an addiction is conceded.
Illegal acts associated with pornography is similar to illegal acts associated with alcohol -- except that pornography when abused does not lead directly to severe injury, property damage, and death (eg, drunken driving). The path from pornography to child abuse or rape is a fairly convoluted one, and not something that results from impaired judgement. Individuals are criminally responsible for such actions (generally under state laws, rather than federal laws), and there is nothing wrong with that.
Pornography as a disease vector is a valid concern, but on the same level of concern as possible disease vectors in hospitals. If precautions are taken, the risks can be minimized, and participants are generally willing to take the risks. If not, they have the choice not to participate. If the governments to make a useful statement about pornography, passing laws about health standards and fair reporting of health risks for those "performing" is probably the most useful thing that could be done.
But that's not what Ashcroft wants, it seems. He wants to make a splash in the papers about his new anti-pornography task force, presumably wielding the "community standards" idea to shave a few more slices off of the First Amendment.
And this from a supposedly conservative individual. Seeking to restrict the Consitutional rights of Americans is truly shameful.
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