Archive for category Civil liberties Infringement

Surrender Your Constitutional Rights: Visit Texas

This amazing dash cam video and subsequent video of court proceedings well confirms the long tradition of utter lawlessness  in the state of Texas.

“I verbally objected to an unconstitutional search of my vehicle in Electra, Texas. Police officers Matt Wood and Gary Ellis maliciously responded by issuing me two false citations. I got a copy of the dashboard-camera video at the pretrial hearing. It showed all. City attorney Todd Greenwood demanded I give my copy of the evidence back, and tried to have me arrested when I refused.

Todd Greenwood then compared rural Texas to the movie Deliverance, and warned me “What’s written down in the Constitution is one thing, and the real practice is another.”

 

Texas Sucks!

You can help:

We petition the Obama administration to: Peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government. Sign it!

7 Comments

What madness is being unleashed in Russia?

The news stories coming out of Russia are depressing and heart-breaking.

John Aravosis at Americablog has been all over it.  First, Russia adopted a draconian anti-gay law.

It is now literally illegal in Russia to say that you are gay.  It is illegal to kiss your partner in public – say, after you win a gold medal.  It is illegal for a gay athlete to wear the rainbow flag.  Or even to acknowledge during an interview that they are gay – or for the foreign press to acknowledge it – unless they mention that gay sexual orientation in a negative way . . .

Then there’s the seemingly officially-sanctioned violence against gay, bisexual and trans people in Russia.  It’s been made clear for years now that Russian government will turn a blind eye towards anti-gay violence, and many have alleged that the Russian government is actually behind such violence.  Will gay Olympic athletes and gay Olympic fans be targeted for violence while in Russia?  No one knows.

In recent weeks, the situation in Russia has taken a turn for the horrific.  Buzzfeed published a series of photos of anti-gay violence in Russia.  Then the story broke about Russian neo-nazi skinheads arranging dates with gay teens then beating, abusing, and torturing them.

Oddly enough their idea of fighting pedophiles targets exclusively male teenagers who respond to the same-sex personal ads and show up for a date. Captured victims are bullied and often tortured while being recorded on video. These self-proclaimed “crime fighters” perform their actions under the broad day light, often outside and clearly visible to general public that indifferently passes by or even commend them. Video recordings of bullying and tortures are freely distributed on the Internet in order to out LGBT teens to their respective schools, parents and friends. Many victims were driven to suicides, the rest are deeply traumatized.

In an interview with the NY Times, Harvey Fierstein said:

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. In May a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning….

The Winter Olympics will be in Russia next year.  The IOC’s response has been pathetic.  They claim they’ve received assurances that glbt athletes and tourists visiting the games will be safe.  I’m sure the skinhead thugs are going to check who’s Russian and who’s not before they fag-bash.

Russia seems to be sliding backwards into the Dark Ages.  I don’t think this is going to end well.

 

5 Comments

The US Needs to Start Unraveling the Homeland Security Mess

A good place to start is repealing the disaster that is the Patriot Act.

However, a proposal before Congress right now would limit the scope of the NSA’s information gathering.

The amendment [pdf] basically defunds the NSA’s dragnet collection of every bit of metadata on all phone records as well as other bulk records that have not yet been revealed. The amendment still would allow the NSA to collect information under the original intent—and understanding—of the law, that is information actually related to actual investigations.

Of course NSA supporters are pushing back, including, unfortunately, the Obama administration.  Like too many people in positions of power, the administration and the President seem to in the grip of fear about terrorism and have convinced themselves that any means necessary to keep us “safe” (what that means) are acceptable.  They are mistaken.  Such an attitude only feeds a creeping tendency toward authoritarianism in our culture, one which seems to be growing stronger because too few people in elected office see it as a threat.  We see it in the militarization of police forces, in spying on Americans, in the absurd theatre that is the TSA striptease in airports.  It is fueled by fear and it fuels fear.  I believe it is dangerous.

 

12 Comments

The Mind Your Own Business Act

I love the fact that Alan Grayson was able to get back into congress along with Elizabeth Warren. NOW when I get the old, “they’re all the same” refrain, I can say, “well not exactly”.

Alan names his amendment to H.R. 1960 the, “The Mind Your Own Business Act”. When was the last time you heard somebody in congress come up with a plan that didn’t have an Orwellian name? Republicans are always so proud of people on their side who just come right out and say what they think. It’s usually crazy as hell, but they say it anyway. Alan shoots from the hip too, but it sparks something in your brain that says: this really makes sense. Also, for years, Republicans were prohibited from disagreeing with anything a Republican in the hierarchy said. Grayson can say he disagrees with Obama’s stance, because he’s a Democrat. That’s my hope.

MSNBC is supposed to be “the liberal channel”, so why is the host of this segment trying to “get something” on Grayson for insinuating the Nazi’s would have loved to have a “Total Information Awareness” type of system that is going in to full gear, very soon. Grayson answers a question with a question, but it’s a good one, which the host, basically, answers by saying, ‘I’m the one asking the questions here’.

The question Grayson asks is,

How do you feel about the fact that the Government is keeping a record of every single phone call that you make?

I’m totally perplexed at the media coverage Edward Snowden is getting at this late date. He’s not the only whistle-blower on this matter. We have known for many years the government had planned to collect, and has been collecting as much information about every one of us as they could. Now that they are close to having the ability to get EVERYTHING, we get polls that tell us Americans WANT to have all their private information collected to…

AND I’M REALLY GETTING TIRED OF HEARING THIS…

Keep us safe.

If the government is serious about keeping me safe, they’d stop spending so much money on secret surveillance, prisons and war. What I really need to keep me “safe” is single payer healthcare and “food security”.

I think Grayson’s best quote in the video is this:

Martin, you are completely missing the point. The point is that we’re taking measures that are not correlated in any sense with our safety, and even if they were it would be beneath our dignity as human beings. That’s what this is all about. All right, listen. You could always make people safer by taking extreme measures. If, for instance, we lowered the speed limit to 10 miles per hour, people would be safer. If we outlawed knives and forks, people would be safer. If we made everybody fly on the airlines naked, people would be safer. None of those things corresponds to my sense of human dignity, and I think I’m not the only one who feels that way….

If you’d like to support congressman Grayson’s amendment, you can sign up here.

32 Comments

Edward Snowden, NSA Whistleblower: ‘We Hack Everyone Everywhere’

Boundless Informant heatmap

Glenn Greenwald posted an interview with Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history.

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

A: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?

A: “That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinized most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”

Q: What about the Obama administration’s protests about hacking by China?

A: “We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries.”

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: “You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”

Thanks to this courageous man, we are now getting some official acknowledgement and confirmation of the continuous, widespread warrantless surveillance of Americans (not to mention the rest of the world) by the National Security Agency (NSA). To be continued.

More info:
Revealed: The NSA’s powerful tool for cataloguing global surveillance data

UPDATE: ‘I DID ANSWER YOUR QUESTION!’ Mika Brzezinski plays dumb to defend White House talking points.

UPDATE: Greenwald Says ‘There’s A Lot More Coming’

UPDATE: ACLU Suing Obama Administration Over Phone Call Surveillance

123 Comments

‘Papers Please’ Now Can Be Enforced in Arizona

Thanks to our partisan right-wing Supreme Court, Arizona’s un-American “Papers Please” law is now going to take effect despite being ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton signed the formal order this afternoon dissolving the injunction she issued more than two years ago blocking the state from enforcing key provisions of the 2010 law.

Police can now demand to see proof of citizenship or legal residence. You will be arrested and taken to jail if your “papers” are not in order. If you visit Arizona, bring a passport. Or better yet, don’t visit Arizona!

16 Comments

An Epidemic of Hostility Toward Religion or an Epidemic Christian Cry-babies?

The Family Research Council (a group the SPLC identified as a hate group for its ongoing use of lies, distortions and untruths about glbt persons) and Liberty Institute, another right wing organization, recently released a study which they claim documents more than 600 instances of hostility toward religious liberty:

Liberty Institute attorney Justin Butterfield tells OneNewsNow what his group hopes to accomplish with the study’s findings.

“We want to raise awareness of the issue. A lot of people think that hostility because of people’s religious beliefs and attacks on religious liberty are things that happen elsewhere in the world, not in the United States,” he notes. “We just want to show that it actually happens with increasing and alarming regularity here in the United States.”

Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford and FRC President Tony Perkins are presenting the study before the Republican Party Convention platform committee to raise that awareness.

I’ve been very skeptical about claims made by the religious right concerning discrimination against and bigotry towards Christians.  However, this report is based on an audacious claim – 600+ incidents of hostility towards religion?  Documented and published?  As a matter of due diligence I figured I owed it to myself to check out the report.  I downloaded the report.  It’s 135 breezy pages long consisting of short summaries of instances the authors identify as hostility to religion and citations (either the case information or links to online news reports).  The report is helpfully broken down in sections based on what type of hostility the authors deemed to have occurred (i.e. public expressions of faith, in schools, workplaces, about monuments and public displays, etc.)

I picked a few cases at random. Read the rest of this entry »

7 Comments

So Called, “Voter Fraud” Could Be a Win For Republicans

Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Voter ID coverage is raging across our corporate, public and liberal information organizations like a tsunami. ALEC got caught pimping ID laws which will successfully disenfranchise Utahn’s and others across the country who have been voting for decades, even though there is no reason to believe that more then a handful of democratic voters have been trying to vote illegally.

Just ask Pennsylvania [emphasis mine]:

As the Justice Department investigates Pennsylvania’s voter ID law on the federal level, a coalition of civil rights groups is gearing up for a state trial starting Wednesday examining whether the law is allowable under Pennsylvania’s constitution.

In that case, Pennsylvania might have handed those groups and their clients (including 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite) a bit of an advantage: They’ve formally acknowledged that there’s been no reported in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and there isn’t likely to be in November.

Or Texas (from TPM):

When Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) will likely press him for using a Democratic-leaning firm to analyze data in the Texas voter ID case.

Smith wrote a letter earlier this month which stated that DOJ choosing the “left-leaning” Catalist to review Texas’ voter ID data was “a disturbing misuse of taxpayer dollars and undermines the credibility of the Department’s challenge to the law.”

Chairman Lamar goes on [emphasis mine]:

“Imagine the outrage if a Republican administration intervened to block a New York City election law on the basis of data provided by a firm run by Karl Rove,” Smith wrote.

As it turns out, Smith doesn’t really have to imagine much: The expert Texas used to defend their law used to work for Karl Rove.

University of Texas Professor Daron Shaw, who testified that Texas’ voter ID law “will not have an impact on turnout,” worked for both of President George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, the RNC, Fox News’ election desk and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who signed the voter ID bill into law.

Well, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez did, indeed, appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday and The Chairman opened the hearing by saying he reserved the right to end the hearing at any time. He probably should have done that before the hearing began because the Republican dudes didn’t come out looking too good.

I turned on the TV, just in time to see Representative Steve King make a total ass out of himself – something he’s really good at – by interrupting Perez, just as Perez starts to reiterate what everybody should know about the absence of voter fraud in the US. You can see the exchange starting at about 48 minutes in on this C-Span video, but the whole video is incredible.

The Chairman thinks that any true American plurality would obviously vote Republican, if only given the chance, for once. Funny thing; I thought they’d been telling us we were a divided country. I don’t know why Mr. King is worried about ACORN. It no longer exists because the Republican party got rid of it months ago with almost complete backing from the Democrats.

All this nonsense aside – and in reference to the title of this post; my real fear is that all this voter ID hoopla will help the Republicans take over the country. When the exit polls mysteriously flip at the midnight hour – literally -, the “conservatives” won’t have to thank the soccer moms, NASCAR dads, or the religious masses; they only need say they “won” because of the oh-so-clever voter ID laws they pushed through. Let’s face it, they haven’t exactly been hiding the fact these laws are out there and, in fact, the Governor of Florida, recently, shoved voter disenfranchisement in our faces. These guys are good, aren’t they?

Since the corporate voting machines are NEVER brought up ANYWHERE or ANYTIME by ANYBODY, and have been proven to be hackable, the Republicans can, once again, claim to be the “winners” they always are. Let’s face it, they got everything they wanted, even when the Democrats had all three branches of government after the 2006 midterms [please refer to mia-culpa below].

My hope is that the small-d democrats can hack the machines using only names like Mickey Mouse, George Jetson, Lassie ect… and win the house, senate, and the White House. Maybe we could then, FINALLY, have a debate about, and get rid of these pieces of garbage and have a multi-party system that makes sense.

Update: Seems as though Rep. Lamar Smith must have become ill or had some other pressing concern which forced me to edit my post. As all these opulent white men look the same to me, I didn’t catch it until after I completed the post. The man, henceforth, referred to as The Chairman in the post is actually Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), I think.

Mia-Culpa: Damn staff! Of course the Democrats only held the three branches after 2008. They’ll never see a job in this precinct again!

8 Comments

Damn voter fraud

Fun news for the voter fraud teams tomorrow:

Tomorrow, Judge Robert Simpson will hear the case the ACLU has brought on behalf of Viviette Applewhite and others against the state of Pennsylvania for its new voter ID law. That case should be significantly bolstered by the admission from the state itself that there is no history of in-person voter fraud in the state. Essentially it’s a law in search of a problem.

Wait, why would anyone push for a law that solves a problem that doesn’t exist?

“I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
—Conservative leader Paul Weyrich

Nope, that can’t be it. Despite the way various parts of the GOP are fined every election cycle for interfering with votes, and the near constant stories such as “GOP phone bank calls registered Dems and reminds them to vote… The day after the election” I am sure it is only because they love justice, America, and apple pie that these laws are drafted.

1 Comment

Confirmed: NSA Conducting Blanket Electronic Surveillance on Americans

NSA data center in Utah
Utah NSA data center

Via Raw Story:

Three National Security Agency whistle blowers told Viewpoint host Eliot Spitzer on Monday that the agency was gathering information on every person in the United States.

The FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008 gave the NSA broad powers to monitor international phone calls and emails, and granted legal immunity to telecommunication companies that had participated in the Bush administration’s wiretapping program prior to 2008. But former senior official Thomas Drake, former senior analyst Kirk Wiebe, and former technical director William Binney said the NSA was not only monitoring international communications — the agency had been spying on “the entire country.”

Drake said there was a “key decision made shortly after 9/11, which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance.”

Widespread domestic electronic surveillance without a warrant violates the U.S. Constitution. The secret FISA court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act may issue warrants, but the Constitution clearly prohibits the issuance of blanket warrants.

The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The NSA simply does not have the authority to do what they are doing. Who can stop them?

UPDATE:
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals answered my question. The warrantless surveillance of Americans is accountability-free. Even if you can prove you were under secret government surveillance (which is almost impossible), your case can still be thrown out of court using the so-called “state secrets privilege.”

14 Comments

Arizona Can Do Without My Tourist Dollars

This morning, the partisan right-wing U.S. Supreme Court went against all precedent and upheld the constitutionality of part of the Arizona “papers, please” law (SB 1070). [It may be an exaggeration to say the law was upheld, see comments and update below]. I assume this law will now go into effect in Arizona. The only thing I can do about it will be to stay the hell out of Arizona as long as they have this racist policy in place. I wrote an e-mail to the Arizona Office of Tourism this morning.

It remains to be seen if copycat laws in Utah, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina will be allowed to go into effect. Every person in Arizona and states that pass S.B. 1070-like legislation will be required to carry proof of their legal status at all times or face the possibility of being detained. In practice it will be people of color that bear the brunt of these policies.

The encouraging news is that the first year after passing S.B. 1070, Arizona saw an estimated $141 million in losses from conference cancellations. The impact on the tourist industry from this first year alone totaled more than $250 million in economic output and close to 3,000 lost jobs. Ongoing economic impacts on Arizona tourism might encourage them to rejoin the Land of the Free.

UPDATE: David Dayen on FDL:

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer put on a brave face and described the ruling as a “victory,” because it did not quite invalidate the entire law. However, it left wide open an overturning of the one key provision that remains. That’s the “show your papers” part of the law. If actual Arizona implementation violates federal statutes or results in unconstitutional equal protection violations, it can be challenged again. In Arizona, the home of Joe Arpaio, that is almost certain to happen; this law can and will be revisited at a later date. Having most of the law thrown out before implementation isn’t anything that could conceivably be described as a “victory.”


UPDATE:
Media Matters: Fox News not giving up.

Fox News reacted to news that the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s controversial immigration bill, SB 1070, by citing arguments that the one provision that was not immediately thrown out is “the heart of the entire bill,” while Fox Nation claimed the decision was a “defeat for Obama.” Fox’s attempt to find a silver lining is unsurprising, as it has long been a staunch supporter of the statute. But the court’s decision was overwhelmingly against the bill and the remaining provision could eventually be overturned.

UPDATE: Women immigrants tell of life in fear thanks to ‘Papers, please’ laws

51 Comments

Judge Orders “Eye For an Eye” Punishment: But was it justice?

The story itself bothers me.  Two teenage girls befriended a 3 year old while she was at a McDonald’s playland, then cut off a huge chunk of the three year old’s hair.  They were identified and sent to juvenile court.

Where the story takes an interesting turn:

[Judge] Johansen ordered Kaytlen to serve 30 days in detention and 276 hours of community service for the incident and for making months of threatening phone calls to a Colorado teen.

Then the judge said, “I will cut that by 150 hours if you want to cut her hair right now.”

“Me, cut her hair?” Bruno asked.

“Right now,” the judge responded. “I’ll go get a pair of scissors, we’ll whack that ponytail off.”

Moss was in court that day and can be heard on an audio recording demanding that more hair be cut off.

“You satisfied?” the judge asked.

“No,” Moss replied. “She took that much off. My daughter’s hair that had never been cut, that was down to here, was cut up to here.”

Judge Johansen said, “Take it off clear up to the rubber band.”

The teen’s mother is upset about what happened – she claims she felt intimidated into cutting off her daughter’s hair and now wishes she hadn’t complied.  (Did she have an attorney present?  The article doesn’t say.) 

I’m struggling with what I think is a basic question – has justice been served?  The teens in question have been punished.  But punishment isn’t the same as justice, is it?  There’s the notion of restorative justice in which the offender makes whole the offended.  So in this case, we have to ask -  what exactly was the crime?  They were charged with assault – well they did something else in the process.  It wasn’t that they cut off a little girl’s hair – they violated her sense of safety.  They taught her to feel unsafe in the world.  Having their hair cut off won’t restore he sense of feeling safe.  At the same time, the Judge’s lesson was that those in power can do what they wish to those not in power.  Was his sentence an abuse of power?  We grant judges wide latitude for good reason – there are so many variables in any given charge that judges need to be able to exercise discretion.  But there are also boundaries.  We wouldn’t let a judge horsewhip a defendant found guilty.  We don’t let judges execute prisoners. 

I’m not sure I agree or disagree with the Judge’s decision, but I’m sure it raises lots of questions for me.  I’m not sure if the judge overstepped his bounds or not.  He saw to it that the ofender was punished – I’m not sure he saw to it that justice was served.

1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: