Showing posts with label Civil Rights and Liberties. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Civil Rights and Liberties. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Orwellian, Kafka-esque, You Name It

This one is so nuts it jolted my long-numb outrage nerve back to life.

From the New York Times: Guantanamo Detainees' Lawyers Can't Use Wikileaks Files

So here's what the government's been arguing:
-People locked up in Guantanamo, some for almost a decade now, are there because they are "the worst of the worst" Al-Qaeda terrorists.
-We could prove it, but it would risk giving away state secrets that would aid and abet the terrorist cause.
-That's why we can't have such niceties as civil trials and, you know, silly things like evidence and so on.
-But they are really, REALLY bad men. Trust us.

However, the files that have been leaked reveal that the government long ago determined that:
-The majority of detainees were sent to Guantanamo for no reason at all.
-Many were innocents rounded up in Afghanistan because the US offered large rewards.
-Some were mere children, others senile old men.

Now they're saying that the detainees' lawyers can't even look at the leaked documents because they remain classified.
They're public knowledge now, but they're still, you know, top secret. Hush hush. Loose lips and all that.

So even if a document is out there that shows that US military "intelligence" (*snort*) found out 8 years ago that your client is completely innocent of whatever he's been accused of, (if they've even bothered accusing him of anything) you can't use that document to have him released.

If you think this kind of government over-reach will never be applied to you because you're an American citizen or not brown, could I just drop a couple of names? Jose Padilla. Bradley Manning.

I could comment at length on how batshit crazy this really is, and how much of a threat to democracy and human rights, but I think in this case the facts speak for themselves. I will however award this story the coveted Les Enragés Maximum Bullshit Award.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fox News Analyst's Analysis--Just Kill 'Em

Fox News Strategic Analyst Col. Ralph Peters says that he's not concerned about the human rights of terrorists. He thinks they should all be killed. In fact he says, "Fight for human rights; kill terrorists." Let's watch:

The problem is, we don't know which detainees are really terrorists. Peters admits that he doesn't care. Well, good for him, but that is fucked up. Some of these people were sold into detention by locals with a grudge or out to make a quick buck.

A highly disputed report that says 1 in 7 terror detainees that were released from Guantanamo are suspected to or confirmed to have returned to militant activities. That means 6 out of 7 were released and did not participate in militant activities. Wouldn't that mean they probably weren't terrorists in the first place? Doesn't matter to Col. Peters.

TAGS: , , ,

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The New Chicago Eight

..."The RNC Eight" Charged as Terrorists

A disturbing story from Information Clearing House explains why the RNC was held in Minnesota, and why the police there acted as if war had been declared on America's population.
In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges under the 2002 Minnesota version of the Federal Patriot Act, Ramsey County Prosecutors have formally charged 8 alleged leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee with Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up to 7 1/2 years in prison under the terrorism enhancement charge which allows for a 50% increase in the maximum penalty.

Affidavits released by law enforcement which were filed in support of the search warrants used in raids over the weekend, and used to support probable cause for the arrest warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence released to date does not corroborate these allegations with physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these allegations than the claims of the informants. Based on past abuses of such informants by law enforcement, the National Lawyers Guild is concerned that such police informants have incentives to lie and exaggerate threats of violence and to also act as provocateurs in raising and urging support for acts of violence.
WHAT?!? Minnesota has its own version of the constitutionally dubious USA PATRIOT Act? What folly is this? It does explain how and why the modern-day version of the 1968 'police riots' at the DNC in Chicago occurred in Minnesota. The sonsabitches want to establish a test case that equates protest, dissent, or simply thinking for yourself as TERRORISM.

They also want to send a message to legitimate political dissidents - STFU!! It's like Bill O'Reilly became the the head of DHS or something (shudder at the thought.) This is the government trying to cut off everyone's microphone at once.

I've already made my comparisons of the violence in 2008 with that in Chicago in 1968 in my recent post Police State 101 - but this development brings them into high relief. This is a nakedly aggressive crackdown designed to suppress people's constitutionally protected rights of assembly and expression. If you still want more background on the DNC riots of 1968, or the Chicago Eight (Later Chicago Seven) trials, consult Wikipedia. There's also a good article here at History and Education blog.

The evidence that the authorities are relying on in these cases seems to be paper-thin, and one wonders if they intend to use the dubious 'rules of evidence' established for the Guantanamo Bay military 'trials' as a precedent. None of this passes either the laugh test or the smell test.
The criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney do not allege that any of the defendants personally have engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. The complaints list all of alleged violations of law during the last few days of the RNC — other than violations of human rights carried out by law enforcement — and seeks to hold the 8 defendants responsible for acts committed by other individuals. None of the defendants have any prior criminal history involving acts of violence. Searches conducted in connection with the raids failed to turn up any physical evidence to support the allegations of organized attacks on law enforcement. Although claiming probable cause to believe that gunpowder, acids, and assembled incendiary devices would be found, no such items were seized by police. As a result, police sought to claim that the seizure of common household items such as glass bottles, charcoal lighter, nails, a rusty machete, and two hatchets, supported the allegations of the confidential informants.
One has to assume that TPTB (the powers that be) really don't care about getting convictions in these cases. It will suffice for them if a pall of fear is cast over any act of political independence, and even if it doesn't they've got at least eight people who might question their 'patriotic' motives locked up at least until after the elections are over.

Anyone with two functioning synapses could have seen this coming from a long way off. The USA PATRIOT Act and its successors clearly were written in such a way that they sound like they are directed against foreign terrorists, but conveniently can be applied against domestic political opponents and critics of the government. "We'll try these draconian methods out on brown people for a while at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. If we get away with that we're clear to bring them home to Peoria, Bakersfield, Des Moines and St. Paul Minnesota." That's how I perceive their thinking.

What worries me the most about this is not what the government is doing, but what I fear the Lamestream Media won't do - report this as a major story, which it surely is. It's after all an indication of a fundamental shift in society, the breaking of a covenant between the government and the people that has endured since the American Revolution. And ultimately I fear that the American people themselves won't respond with the energy required to put a stop to this, and turn back the judicial clock to a time when fairness mattered.

A little voice in the corner of my mind asks, "is it fascism yet?" I don’t know, but as a rule I’d say that if you can actually smell the polish on the stormtrooper’s boot, it’s probably too close to your neck.
UPDATE: Firedoglake has this post, with the video below about how Americans were tortured Guantanamo style after being arrested in Minnesota.
The shocking thing is that it would be very unusual for any of these thugs cops to face discipline over these various crimes of assault and failure to recognize the rights of their fellow citizens.

TAGS: , ,

Monday, September 01, 2008

Police State 101

There's been lots of buzz in Greater Left Blogsylvania over the pre-emptive strikes that the cops have been making on potential protesters in Minnesota. It seems like they want the upcoming RNC to be held in an atmosphere of respectful shock and awe. From Glennzilla:
There is clearly an intent on the part of law enforcement authorities here to engage in extreme and highly intimidating raids against those who are planning to protest the Convention. The DNC in Denver was the site of several quite ugly incidents where law enforcement acted on behalf of Democratic Party officials and the corporate elite that funded the Convention to keep the media and protesters from doing anything remotely off-script. But the massive and plainly excessive preemptive police raids in Minnesota are of a different order altogether. Targeting people with automatic-weapons-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined.
(Bold emphasis mine) Glenn has a follow-up post HERE, demonstrating that this is an effort by local police, but it is being directed by the feds. There's lots more at Firedoglake, Firedoglake, Firedoglake, Firedoglake, Firedoglake, Firedoglake again, Crooks and Liars, and Raw Story. To name a few. But mostly Firedoglake, who have taken to this like a pitbull on a postman's ankle.

So what can this blogger add? In a word, history. We'll consider three major past events and how they relate to current events. If you were wondering why the current crop of thugs in uniform is so utterly blasé in their regards for the law - it's because they know damned well that there are never any consequences. And this is by no means a brand new phenomenon characteristic of the Bush administration.

Consider first the violence that occurred at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The contradictions arising out of this fiasco are indicative of the times. From Wikipedia's article on the subsequent and infamous Chicago Seven trial:

The 1968 Democratic National Convention, held in late August – convened to select the party's candidates for the November 1968 Presidential election – was the scene of massive demonstrations protesting the Vietnam War, which was at its height. Thousands of people showed up with signs and banners, music, dancing and poetry. A pig, "Pigasus the Immortal", was brought into the city to be "nominated" for President. Initially, there was a carnival atmosphere. The police were edgy. Some people responded to a night-time curfew announcement with rock-throwing. Police used tear gas and struck people with batons, and arrests were made. In the aftermath of what was later characterized as a "police riot" by the U.S. National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence,[1] a grand jury indicted eight demonstrators and eight police officers
The NCCPV did indeed characterize this incident as a 'police riot.' That didn't prevent them from making the following bizarre statement:
"There is a criminal justice process through which each offender passes from the police, to the courts, and back unto the streets. The inefficiency, fall-out, and failure of purpose during this process is notorious."
Frickin' weird - it makes it sound like all the protesters were repeat offenders -hardened political criminals who could have been prevented from their opposition to the Vietnam War if only they'd been left behind bars.

But before I get sidetracked by some of the bizarre elements of this story (and there are many), back to my main point. Five of the Chicago Seven protesters were convicted of crossing state lines to start a riot (all convictions were reversed on appeal) despite the fact that this was OFFICIALLY described as a POLICE RIOT! Of the eight police officers indicted in the matter, seven were acquitted, and charges against the eighth were dismissed despite the fact that this was OFFICIALLY described as a POLICE RIOT!

For more background see 1968 Democratic National Convention Protests. For context consider that Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated earlier in 1968, on April 4th and June 5th respectively.

Fast forward to May 4th, 1970, the massacre of four students at Kent State University in Ohio. I've blogged before about this dark day in American history. Reading about this still makes me sick to my stomach, even almost 40 years later.
Four students were killed and nine others were wounded, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

Some of the students who were shot had been protesting against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Richard Nixon announced in a television address on April 30. However, other students who were shot had merely been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance.
Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
Consider those distances relative to something familiar: a professional ballpark. 343 feet would be a home run in left or right field in many parks, 390 and 382 would clear the fence even in deep center. How does this threaten armed and helmeted National Guard troops? Even at 265 ft a professional outfielder is not going to throw a baseball directly to home plate for an out, but will relay it in. So the idea of 'rock-throwing radicals' just doesn't hold water.

Students had been bayoneted by troops on the two days before the shootings. That's right, BAYONETED! Fucking unbelievable. Barbaric.

Just like the Chicago 'police riots', a subsequent government investigation (this one was called the Scranton Commission) found the armed authority figures in uniform to be at fault.
The Commission issued its findings in a September 1970 report that concluded that the Ohio National Guard shootings on May 4, 1970 were unjustified. The report said:

Even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force. The 61 shots by 28 guardsmen certainly cannot be justified. Apparently, no order to fire was given, and there was inadequate fire control discipline on Blanket Hill. The Kent State tragedy must mark the last time that, as a matter of course, loaded rifles are issued to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators.
Just like the Chicago 'police riots', the armed authority figures in uniform suffered no consequences for their actions, even though this time it descended to the level of cold-blooded murder.

Bottom Line:
Eight of the guardsmen were indicted by a grand jury. The guardsmen claimed to have fired in self-defense, which was generally accepted by the criminal justice system. In 1974 U.S. District Judge Frank Battisti dismissed charges against all eight on the basis that the prosecution's case was too weak to warrant a trial.

In May 2007, Alan Canfora, one of the injured protestors, demanded that the case be reopened, having found an audiotape in a Yale University government archive allegedly recording an order to fire ("Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!") just before the 13 second volley of shots.
Flash forward again to the 2004 RNC in New York City. The NYPD are under investigation (since May 17, 2006) alleged to have systematically infringed on protesters' constitutional rights. Democracy Now! is the go-to place for this story, which has received far too little attention.
During the week of the 2004 convention, police arrested some 1800 protesters—more than at any previous political convention in the country’s history. It is unclear as to the extent of the Justice Department"s criminal investigation of the NYPD, but the FBI appears to be focusing on the arrest of Dennis Kyne, a Gulf War veteran turned anti-war activist. Kyne was arrested on the steps of the New York Public Library on multiple charges including inciting a riot. His case went to trial but it was dismissed after his legal team presented videotaped evidence that proved the police lied to the court. As part of the criminal investigation, the FBI is seeking to interview other protesters whose constitutional rights have been violated by the police.
The bottom line of this story is that the investigation into police wrongdoing didn't even begin until nearly two years after the events, so the memory of witnesses can be put in question and the prospect of getting any physical evidence is pretty much shot. It appears that the investigation would never have started at all if it hadn't been for the existence of the video tape proving that the NYPD were lying about this from the get-go.

Not that the effort has been without any fruits, as you can see by searching Democracy Now's archives. Here's two short samples and one longer one:

Mar. 23, 2006: NYPD Caught Lying About RNC Arrests in 2004
"For the first time a high-ranking police supervisor has admitted that police arrested about 400 people around Union Square even though the police never gave an order to disperse."
Mar. 26, 2007: Report: NYPD Conducted Widespread Spy Campaign Before RNC
"The New York Times has revealed that undercover New York City police officers traveled around the country, Canada and Europe to spy on protesters planning to attend the 2004 Republican National Convention. The city set up an “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad” and sent undercover officers to attend meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists."
May 17, 2007: NYPD Forced to Release RNC Spy Files
A federal judge has ordered the New York City police to release about 600 pages of internal documents that detail the department’s wide-ranging surveillance of activists ahead of the 2004 Republican National Convention. The judge ordered the first batch of documents to be made public following a lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times. Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU: “What’s shocking is the breadth of the surveillance activity. They were in lots of different cities across the nation and internationally. We have in here of people doing grafitti in Germany in Croatia,. We have reports from Berkeley, from Baltimore, from Syracuse, from Fresno. The police department was all over the country, all over the globe.” The city is still fighting to keep secret other documents related to the convention including the raw intelligence collected by the police department.
Not entirely without fruits, and yet completely devoid of the sweet ripe fruit that protects civil liberties going forward, into say the next Republican National convention following the one in NYC in 2004. No cop has been disciplined. Ray Kelly is still New York's Police Commissioner. All costs of the investigation and its result have so far been borne by the New York taxpayer. And unless some consequences are felt by those who conspire to deprive their fellow citizens of their liberty, the erosion of constitutional rights will continue.

Some Joni Mitchell lyrics came into my head while I was writing this. From Judgement of the Moon & Stars, they were written about Beethoven's deafness, but oddly could just as well been referring to the Bill of Rights. I take poetic license in my reinterpretation.
Revoked but not yet cancelled
The gift goes on/ In silence/ In a bell jar
Still a song ...
You've got to shake your fists at lightning now
You've got to roar like forest fire
You've got to spread your light like blazes
All across the sky
They're going to aim the hoses on you
Show 'em you won't expire
Not till you burn up every passion

Not even when you die
Come on now/ You've got to try
If you're feeling contempt/ Well then you tell it
If you're tired of the silent night
Jesus, well then you yell it
Condemned to wires and hammers
Strike every chord that you feel
That broken trees/ And elephant ivories/ Conceal
UPDATE: The Station Agent has the scoop on the arrest of Democracy Now's Amy Goodman.

TAGS: , ,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Global Blogging Arrests Triple

The number of blogging arrests world-wide tripled last year. Egypt, Iran and China account for more than half of all blogging arrests.

Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation blogs regularly about the case of online journalist Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani, who received a six-year jail sentence from the Yemeni government last week. Her reporting has really pissed off the Yemeni government, and they have banned her blog in that country.

Al-Khaiwani (pictured), a pro-democracy journalist and activist was convicted by a Yemeni court for conspiring with anti-government rebels, a ridiculous charge that Novak and others have soundly refuted.

Frontline Defenders has more on Al-Khaiwani:
Charges of insulting the president and “demoralising the military” as well as allegations that he had links with an al-Houthi terrorist cell had been brought against Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani based on articles written about the Sa'ada war in Yemen.

The newspaper for which Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani works has been closed and his website has been blocked. His family have also been subject to physical abuse and threats. In 2004, he was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for supporting Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi, a cleric from the Zaidi community. On 20 June 2007, he was arrested at his home for allegedly having ties with an al-Houthi terrorist cell. According to reports, these accusations were fabricated. Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani has previously reported on human rights violations against the Zaidi community and those suspected of having links to al-Houthi. On 27 August 2007, after having been released, Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani was abducted and tortured by a gang of armed men. His family have also been subject to physical abuse and threats.


In Singapore on Monday a U.S. citizen named Gopalan Nair was charged with insulting a judge because he wrote on his blog that the judge was "prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders". Nair faces one year in prison and a fine.

The whole NSA wiretapping deal is a pisser, and the Bush administration are horrendous by American standards, but imagine the sentences some American bloggers would face if we had to answer to the Singaporean government.

TAGS: , , ,

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New and Disturbing Rules Sought

Taking Liberties with YOUR Civil Liberties

It looks like they're still trying to find some way to give retroactive immunity to telecoms who broke the law by co-operating with Bu$hCo™'s illegal warrant-less wiretapping program.

Story from TPMMuckraker;
Story from Crooks and Liars

Of note for those still naive enough to think that the US is going to vote itself out of the current Bush-created crises in November is the capitulation of Texas 'Democrat' (In Name Only) Silvestre Reyes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The so-called compromise would leave it up to the FISA courts themselves to determine whether immunity should be granted. My deepest sympathies go out to anyone with a teen-aged daughter who is as incapable of saying NO as the FISA courts are. Or as willing to roll over onto her back as the Democrats are.

As has been consistently shown in every legal case that this administration has had contact with, the new rules he's trying to put in place can be summed up as:

1) - If you're 'with us', you can get away with whatever the hell you like, including murder. Think of the KBR/Halliburton thugs that gang-raped Jamie Leigh Jones. Or the contractors involved in the black-site interrogation TO DEATH of dozens of alleged terrorists. Or the $10 BILLION in cash that went missing in Iraq under Paul Bremer's watch - and nobody even bothered to look for it. Etc, etc, etc....

1) If you're not 'with us', you are by explicit definition 'with the terrorists', so you are guilty regardless of any evidence that a crime being committed. Think of Don Siegelman, or once again of those dozens of alleged terrorists who've been tortured to death.

Above all think of the appointment of the most partisan group of hacks to ever inhabit the Supreme Court, and the Prosecutors' Purge that has created what amounts to a Department of Injustice in America. The march toward a full-blown fascist state continues unimpeded.

TAGS: , , ,

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Spy Program in US

What was I saying about fascism again? This just in from the Washington Post to remind us...
The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.

Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.
Uh huh.

I don't have access to anything as sophisticated as Kvatch's iNews 9000 Turbo Wi-Fi Headline Translator, but I'll venture a guess that "once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved" means something like "We've got John Yoo working on the memo as I speak." In BushWorld, 'resolved' means eliminated. The administration has already made attempts to eliminate privacy and civil rights since the beginning of the illegal warrantless wiretap program. Bush's plenary powers as a wartime president allow him a line item veto on the constitution according to Yoo, Gonzalez, Mukasey and the rest of the Department of Injustice.

Did anybody see the 1998 movie Enemy of the State, with Will Smith and Gene Hackman?

Uh huh.

TAGS: , , ,

Friday, April 04, 2008

Do you remember?

I do.

I was almost ten years old that April. I remember when the story came on the news. I remember worrying about my father getting home from work, because he worked across the river in Philadelphia. He made it okay, but came home very late. I remember that feeling of being afraid because my mother was afraid. I remember watching from the upstairs bedroom windows of our home, as parts of Philadelphia and Camden burned over the next few days. You could see the smoke. I remember my teacher being sad. I remember other people being angry. Even my not-so-open-minded dad was angry that they had killed Dr. King. He always thought it was a conspiracy to silence him. He turned out to be right, of course.

Bobby Kennedy would be killed later that year. I remember that, too. My mother woke me up early the next day to tell me about that. She was crying. My beloved third grade teacher, Mrs. Lamb, was taking us on a field trip that next day, to Valley Forge. She courageously held it together all day, but she cried on the bus coming home. Not hysterically, just quietly weeping. We cried, too. Because she was crying. We knew she loved Bobby Kennedy: she had a picture of him in our classroom.

1968 was an awful year. The Tet Offensive, Dr. King, Bobby, Chicago. The war was on our television screens every night. The cities burned.

I was a little kid. I knew that something was happening here, but what it was wasn’t exactly clear.

But I remember.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In California, being a Friend can get you fired.

Just so you know. In case, you know, you actually want to put your faith into practice

(San Francisco Chronicle) Feb. 29 - California State University East Bay has
fired a math teacher after six weeks on the job because she inserted the word “nonviolently” in her state-required Oath of Allegiance form.

Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker and graduate student who began teaching remedial math to undergrads Jan. 7, lost her $700-a-month part-time job after refusing to sign an 87-word Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution that the state requires of elected officials and public employees.

“I don’t think it was fair at all,” said Kearney-Brown. “All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don’t care if I meant it, and it didn’t seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn’t matter. Nothing.”

A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before - but had modified it each time.

She signed the oath 15 years ago, when she taught eighth-grade math in
Sonoma. And she signed it again when she began a 12-year stint in Vallejo high
[I have done this here in The Garden State, without any hassle.]

Each time, when asked to “swear (or affirm)” that she would “support and defend” the U.S. and state Constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote “nonviolently” in front of the word “support,” crossed out “swear,” and circled “affirm.” All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said.

The school districts always accepted her modifications, Kearney-Brown said.

But Cal State East Bay wouldn’t, and she was fired on Thursday.

Modifying the oath “is very clearly not permissible,” the university’s attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. “It’s an unfortunate situation. If she’d just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment.” [Right. “If she’d only been a good little mind-numbed robot…”]

Modifying oaths is open to different legal interpretations. Without commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown said that “as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform with individual values.” For example, court oaths may be modified so that atheists don’t have to refer to a deity, said spokesman Gareth Lacy. [Hello, Earth to Jerry: Mr. Brown, you used to be a “liberal…” Want to make a call here?]

Kearney-Brown said she could not sign an oath that, to her, suggested she was agreeing to take up arms in defense of the country.

"I honor the Constitution, and I support the Constitution,” she said. “But I want it on record that I defend it nonviolently.”

The trouble began Jan. 17, a little more than a week after she started teaching at the Hayward campus. Filling out her paperwork, she drew an asterisk on the oath next to the word “defend.” She wrote: “As long as it doesn’t require violence.”

The secretary showed the amended oath to a supervisor, who said it was unacceptable, Kearney-Brown recalled.

Shortly after receiving her first paycheck, Kearney-Brown was told to come back and sign the oath.

This time, Kearney-Brown inserted “nonviolently,” crossed out “swear,” and circled “affirm.”

That’s when the university sought legal advice. [Methinks they'll be a-needin' some more soon...]

“Based on the advice of counsel, we cannot permit attachments or addenda that are incompatible and inconsistent with the oath,” the campus’ human resources manager, JoAnne Hill, wrote to Kearney-Brown.

She cited a 1968 case called Smith vs. County Engineer of San Diego. In that suit, a state appellate court ruled that a man being considered for public employment could not amend the oath to declare: his “supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ Whom Almighty God has appointed ruler of Nations, and expressing my dissent from the failure of the Constitution to recognize Christ and to acknowledge the Divine institution of civil government.” The court called it “a gratuitous injection of the applicant’s religious beliefs into the governmental process.” [Wow! I’ve never heard of such a thing! Have you?]

But Hill said Kearney-Brown could sign the oath and add a separate note to her personal file that expressed her views.

Kearney-Brown declined. “To me it just wasn’t the same. I take the oath seriously, and if I’m going to sign it, I’m going to do it nonviolently.”

Then came the warning.

“Please understand that this issue needs to be resolved no later than Friday, Feb. 22, 2008, or you will not be allowed to continue to work for the university,” Hill wrote.

The deadline was then extended to Wednesday and she was fired on Thursday.

“I was kind of stunned,” said Kearney-Brown, who is pursuing her master’s degree in math to earn the credentials to do exactly the job she is being fired from.

“I was born to do this,” she said. “I teach developmental math, the lowest level. The kids who are conditionally accepted to the university. Give me the kids who hate math - that’s what I want.”

(Snarky comments and emphasis all mine.) Loyalty oaths should have gone out of fashion when Joe McCarthy was run out of Washington, DC, back in the 1950s. And, last time I checked, this handy little chestnut was still part of the Bill of Rights (the part that pertains here is emphasized, just in case, you know, they forgot):

Amendment I:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Quakers do not swear oaths. This is part of our religious practice going back to the very founding of the Religious Society of Friends. It’s why I personally don’t say the Pledge, amongst other things. From Wikipedia:

Various religious groups have objected to the taking of oaths, most notably the Quakers and the Mennonites. This is principally based on the words of Christ in the Antithesis of the Law, “I say to you: ‘Swear not at all’”. The Apostle James stated, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.” Not all Christians follow this reading, because of the statements in the Old Testament. Jews also avoid taking oaths, as even making an unintentionally false oath would violate a Biblical commandment (see Leviticus 19:12).

Opposition to oath-taking caused many problems for these groups throughout their history. Quakers were frequently imprisoned because of their refusal to swear loyalty oaths. Testifying in court was also difficult. George Fox famously challenged a judge who had asked him to swear, saying that he would do so once the judge could point to any Bible passage where Jesus or his apostles took oaths. (The judge could not, but this did not allow Fox to escape punishment.) Legal reforms from the 18th century onwards mean that everyone in the United Kingdom now has the right to make a solemn affirmation instead of an oath. The United States has permitted affirmations since it was founded; it is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Only two US Presidents, Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover, have chosen to affirm rather than swear at their inaugurations…

So I guess they’d have to fire two former Presidents, too… And me.

Would, or will, this university demand that all Catholic instructors remove the crucifixes from around their throats? That all Jewish males on campus remove their yarmulkes? That any Muslim females take off their hijabs? This is discrimination, plain and simple.

This is also why we have an ACLU, and why, in this “post-9/11 world,” chock full of phony baloney plastic patriotism and jerky, car-magnet jingoists, we still need one.

Here’s a deal for you: California American Civil Liberies Union, take this Friend’s case, and I’ll renew my lapsed membership. Today. Seems to me this is an easy win.

And if you’re so inclined (I am, and I did), you can contact the Office of Public Affairs for this fine, tolerant institution, a so-called university that prides itself (and advertises itself) as being “academically rich”… “multicultural”… “socially responsible”… “open-minded”… “welcoming”… “inclusive” here. Just be polite. That’s how Friends are supposed to act.

(H/t for the head’s up on this to Blue Gal, ‘natch.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tears of Rage

We carried you in our arms
On Independence Day,
And now you'd throw us all aside
And put us on our way."
-- Tears of Rage --
(Bob Dylan & Richard Manuel)
Throwing us all aside, the US Senate has capitulated once again to the UberFührer's President's demands, this time on the issue of telecom immunity. As infuriating as it was at first blush, it only became more so on further reflection. In last night's lively thread I made an oblique observation that the DINO problem may be much worse than we thought. Look at the way the voting breaks down by how close those Democratic Senators who voted with the Republicans are to facing the polls:
Here is the list, with the cohort to which each Senator belongs. I think It shows an interesting trend.

Evan Bayh (D-IA) - III
Tom Carper (D-DE) - I
Kent Conrad (D-ND) - I
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) - I
Daniel Inouye (D-HI) - III
Tim Johnson (D-SD) - II
Herb Kohl (D-WI) - I
Mary Landrieu (D-LA) - II
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) - III
Claire McCaskill (D-MO) - I
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) - III
Ben Nelson (D-NE) - I
Bill Nelson (D-FL) - I
Mark Pryor (D-AR) - II
Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) - II
Ken Salazar (D-CO) - III
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) - I
Jim Webb (D-VA) - I

This year's cohort II (4 out of 12)
Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller

2010 cohort III (5 out of 15)
Evan Bayh, Daniel Inouye, Blanche Lincoln, Barbara Mikulski, Ken Salazar

2012 cohort I (9 out of 22)
Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Dianne Feinstein, Herb Kohl, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Debbie Stabenow, Jim Webb
I think the numbers pretty much provide their own analysis. There may be any number of stealth Republicans with D's attached to their names who will vote with the R's when necessary to get a measure passed, but refrain from doing so unless necessary in order not to blow their cover. I could be wrong, but when Nosybear remarked that I had implied such a premise, I ran the numbers and here you see the result. You do the math, as they say. To be honest I haven't done any stats or probability problems in decades, and wouldn't know how to test this result to see if it passes a significance threshold.

At the very least this way of looking at the vote demonstrates one thing. The Democrats seem to be much more afraid of being punished at the polls for being soft on Republican terror than for being soft on Islamofascist (or whatever you want to call it) terror.
Another observation I made is of just how much will have been given to this foul administration and their corporate enablers should retroactive immunity ever become law. Remember, the reason they're pushing so hard for this is that with the Department of Justice in their pocket, they can assure that no court will ever get to scrutinize their actions.
Without judicial review, and able to hide behind the State Secrets wall, there are no limits. The telecoms, the alphabet soupers, or the White House can spy on Congressmen of the opposition or even their own side for purposes of blackmail. They can listen in to conference calls of their competitors, steal trade secrets, practice insider trading without 'officially' being an insider. They could even bug trysts between lovers just for some kind of sick sexual gratification.
Jenn provided a link to this Raw Story piece about Bush's recent revelation that there were indeed telecoms who co-operated with illegal activities, something he has never come right out and said before. Man, that is one cocky bastard, filled with the certainty that he has destroyed the very concept of Justice in America! May he die the death of Herod the Great.

One line in that Raw Story sticks out from the others. "Bush has pledged to veto any bill without immunity, and he said Tuesday that he would not accept any more temporary FISA extensions."

Here's what I see playing out:
-Buoyed by his success in the Senate, Bush is trying to set yet another 'soft on terrorism' trap for the Democrats in the house. This is typical of his brat-like habit of, when given exactly what he wants, demanding more.

-Should the house fail to comply he will veto the bill and then, bewildering to anyone with two functioning synapses, blame the Democrats for denying him the tools to fight terrorism.

This should scare the hell out of us, because it implies that he is either:
1) absolutely certain that the corporate media will spin this to look the exact opposite of what it is or
2) planning on letting FISA lapse then springing yet another false flag operation, the 'third pearl harbor' that will justify him suspending the November elections and declaring martial law outright.

Clearly, tears are not nearly enough. This is like attending a funeral for human rights, perhaps for democracy itself. Like the passage of the Military Commissions Act last September, this is a time for sackcloth and ashes, a time for tearing at the hems of one's garments. A time for weeping.

We pointed out the way to go
And scratched your name in sand,
Though you just thought it was nothing more
Than a place for you to stand.
Now, I want you to know that while we watched,
You discover there was no one true.
Most ev'rybody really thought
It was a childish thing to do.

It was all very painless
When you went out to receive
All that false instruction
Which we never could believe.
And now the heart is filled with gold
As if it was a purse.
But, oh, what kind of love is this
Which goes from bad to worse?
Tears of rage, tears of grief,
Must I always be the thief?
Come to me now, you know
We're so low
And life is brief.
(This post is a follow-on to Unconventional Conventionist's excellent And Liberty Cried..)
Thanks for the Blog Roundup linky love Mike at Crooks & Liars!!
Happy Valentine's day to you and to Blue Gal.
And thanks even more for this link to The Daily Awesome's action alert.
C&L visitors, please help us put pressure on Congress to squash this odious un-American provision. No criminal should be given immunity after the fact.

"HOPE has two children.
The first is ANGER at the way things are.
The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."
-- St. Augustine --

TAGS: , , ,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And Liberty Cried...

As I write this, it was within the last hour that the 110th Session of the Senate of the United States passed by 68 - 29 the most constitutional damage EVER. Consider the 4th Amendment wrecked unless some miracle happens in the House and/or in the Conference report.

Here is a pretty good summary of what went on, what will happen next.

But let's have a look at this in a total context.

THE PRIMARIES: Both Senators Obama and McCain were on the floor, voted on the amendments and the actual final bill. Senator Clinton was not on the floor and did not vote.

THE PRESS: SadButTrue's post below pretty much sums the climate up; LIES.

THE COURTS: Bear with me here. This is a little complex. The FISA court continues to say that there is likely information that the public should know that exists in the classified materials the ACLU seeks. Christy Hardin Smith at FDL puts it better than I can:

In other words, there is likely information that the public should know that exists in these classified materials, but the Congress, and not the courts, is the place in which these matters ought to be investigated. It's a strong hint from the FISA court, but they are not going to go beyond that because to do so, in their opinion, would be a violation of their role in this oversight tango. (And I have to wonder if the documents that the House is combing through contain this information -- or is it something beyond what they have been given?)

That the FISA Court has gone on record publicly not once -- but twice now-- on this issue screams volumes. That there is no clear resolution to these issues says a lot about where we are politically, and about the levels of frustration that is engendering among a whole host of people inside and outside the Beltway.

Contrast the FISC Court against Antonin "It’s ‘Absurd’ To Say The Gov’t Can’t ‘Smack’ A Suspect ‘In The Face’" Scalia. In light of the fact that testimony under water torture hasn't been in use since, oh, the Spanish Inquisition.

All this and a Healthy Dose of Unitary Executive.

Personal Gain Trumping Duty. Lies. Secrets. Legal Versus Justice System. Unchecked Executive Power.

You now understand why I titled this post "And Liberty Cried..."

TAGS: , , ,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Setting the Record Straight

Lies, Damned Lies, and the WSJ's Lies
"The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
-- Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to FDR, 1944 --
The Danger of American Fascism

Glenn Greenwald has a good post up this morning, about how the Wall Street Journal is fudging the facts in support of telecom immunity. Most blatantly they are trying to present it as though immunity already exists and the Democrats are trying to change the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. The laws have been on the books for some time, and it's the White House that wants to change them retroactively, as GG shows:
Just marvel at this paragraph, incoherent and false in equal parts:
By far the worst threat is an amendment from Senator Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) to deny legal immunity to telephone companies that cooperated with the government on these wiretaps after 9/11. The companies face multiple lawsuits, so a denial of even retrospective immunity would certainly lead to less such cooperation in the future.

This is precisely the goal of the left, which has failed to get Congress to ban such wiretaps directly but wants to use lawsuits to do so via the backdoor.
The assertion that Congress has failed "to ban such wiretaps directly" is an absolute lie and there is no other way to phrase that. The reason there are lawsuits brought against telecoms isn't because of some cliched liberal-judicial-activist effort to impose on telecoms obligations which don't exist in law. The opposite is true: the lawsuits were brought precisely because telecoms violated multiple clear, long-standing laws that make it illegal to do exactly what they did: namely, allow government spying on Americans and access to their customer data without judicial warrants.
To claim, as the WSJ does today, that "the left" is using lawsuits as a "backdoor" because it "failed to get Congress to ban such wiretaps directly" literally could not be more false and misleading. And, as always, the falsehoods are bolstered by Bush-following lawyers who are single-mindedly devoted to the authoritarian goal of increasing unchecked government power, such as former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy, who hails the WSJ Editorial as "superb" despite what he must know are its undebatable falsehoods about the law.
Welcome to the Orwellian world of Bu$hCo™ doublespeak, a dialect apparently not far from the corporate language of buzzwords. Greenwald goes on to dissect further lies told in this same editorial, most prominently the idea that the telecoms are not already protected for actions in compliance with legal government requests for co-operation. IOW, even when the government may have been acting illegally, the telecoms are protected if they can demonstrate a 'good faith' argument that they believed otherwise.

Greenwald underlines the mendacity of the anonymous WSJ editorialist
in a single beautifully written paragraph.
The persuasiveness of an argument can often be determined by the willingness of its advocates to confine themselves to the truth when making it. That telecom amnesty advocates resort to demonstrable falsehoods -- literally pretending that telecoms did not violate multiple laws when allowing warrantless spying -- is a powerful testament not only to their lack of integrity but also to the deceit and corruption that forms the crux of their efforts.
Nor do I believe for a moment that the editorialist's anonymity was an accidental slip. The persuasiveness of an argument can also be determined by one's willingness to put one's name to it. Another way to put this: "A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook." -- Bertolt Brecht
Perhaps the most frightening thing about the fascist shift that is going on in America is the takeover of what was once a free and independent press. I say this not just because control of the press is point #8 on Naomi Wolf's list of 10 steps that fascists take to shut down a democracy, or point #6 in Laurence Britt's 14 Characteristics of Fascist Regimes. I find this frightening because of why this is a common point.

If there is every to be an awakening from the nightmare Bush has imposed on America, it will be through a groundswell of public opinion that overwhelms even the will of the military industrial complex and the emerging feudal state of multinational corporate capitalism. How is that groundswell going to take place if the fascists control the media, and the media control people's opinions and attitude?

As popular as Greenwald may be in the pristine wooded hills of Greater Left Blogsylvania, that doesn't necessarily translate to that great a readership in the world at large, certainly not approaching the circulation of the Wall Street Journal. These falsehoods will doubtlessly be widely circulated in the corporate owned media and trumpeted through the malarial swamps of Lower Left Blogistan as well. As Churchill said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

I leave you with a further sampling of quotes on the media, the truth, and the power of lies.
"Both by definition and practice, Laws Of Media deny commercial networks any sort of neutral or unbiased role."
-- Prof. H. Marshall McLuhan --
"All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values."
-- Marshall McLuhan --
"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."
-- A.J. Liebling--
"Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
-- George Orwell--
"False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil."
-- Socrates--

UPDATE: From today's post at The Existentialist Cowboy: Alexandra Robbins recalls her 'encounter' with a bonesman.
Certainly, Skull and Bones does cross boundaries in order to attempt to stay out of the public spotlight. When I wrote an article about the society for the Atlantic Monthly in May 2000, an older Bonesman said to me, “If it’s not portrayed positively, I’m sending a couple of my friends after you.” After the article was published, I received a telephone call at my office from a fellow journalist, who is a member of Skull and Bones. He scolded me for writing the article—”writing that article was not an ethical or honorable way to make a decent living in journalism,” he condescended —and then asked me how much I had been paid for the story. When I refused to answer, he hung up. Fifteen minutes later, he called back.

“I have just gotten off the phone with our people.” “Your people?” I snickered.
“Yes. Our people.” He told me that the society demanded to know where I got my information.

“I’ve never been in the tomb and I did nothing illegal in the process of reporting this article,” I replied.

“Then you must have gotten something from one of us. Tell me whom you spoke to. We just want to talk to them,” he wheedled. “I don’t reveal my sources.”
Then he got angry. He screamed at me for a while about how dishonorable I was for writing the article.

“A lot of people are very despondent over this!” he yelled. “Fifteen Yale juniors are very, very upset!” I thanked him for telling me his concerns.
“There are a lot of us at newspapers and at political journalism institutions,” he coldly hissed. “Good luck with your career”—and he slammed down the phone. --Alexandra Robbins, Secrets of the Tomb
Also Posted at Ice Station Tango. A recommended place to chill out.

TAGS: , , ,

Monday, February 04, 2008

Stripped Safe

Once upon a time, in Stark County, Ohio, a woman was assaulted by a family member, and was injured badly enough that her cousin called 911 for help. Help arrived. The police officer mistook the victim for the perpetrator, slammed her around a bit, and hauled her away to jail. For some mysterious reason, the patrol car video camera was not turned on during this arrest. The injured assault victim was then taken to a jail cell, where she was held down, at one point, by no less than seven individuals, who forcibly removed every shred of her clothing. They then left her naked in a jail cell for the next six hours. She was not allowed to use the telephone. She was not treated for the injuries which had prompted her cousin to call for help on her behalf in the first place.

It's not a surprise that it is against policy for a male deputy to strip search a female in custody, and in this case, men were not only present, but clearly participated in the removal of the woman's clothing. That seven individuals were simultaneously involved in the stripping of this 125 pound woman seem to suggest a certain eagerness on the part of those engaged in forcibly separating the woman from her clothes. I believe the quote from the Sherrif's office characterizing the incident was: "by the book." They simply declared that what had occurred was not, in fact, a strip search. It was something else, and that made it A-OK.

Alright, I find myself horrified by the footage, which the victim and her husband released, and now resides on YouTube. (See the C&L post with video, and also this.) I keep asking myself why I'm so horrified, given that our government does things in the name of security that horrify me daily.

I might be horrified because this incident seems to trace back to a taser happy police force that has killed nearly 300 people, 5 people last month alone. And, I suppose the tasing tide can be described as a predictable outcome in a society that allows a powerful politician who had been consuming alcohol to shoot someone in the face at dusk, wait until the next day before allowing the police to question him, later having the victim who was shot in the face and subsequently had a heart attack apologize publicly.
Gunshot wound at dusk
Smell of beer and wife not his
Fresh blood spills to earth
This, I think, is what happens when a society allows a man who tortured animals as a child and delights in sentencing people to death as an adult, to control the world's largest standing army. I do see a link between the war and occupation in Iraq and the way in which the woman in this case was "handled" by the Sherrif's Department.

That could be the reason I am so horrified, but I don't think it is. I think I am horrified because this case is so highly symbolic to me. When I watch what occurred on video, I feel this woman has been violated. And I feel that I have been violated. In fact, I have been violated. We all have been. By the present administration. Our rights and protections have been stripped away from us as this woman's clothes have been stripped from her, though I will argue with much less complaint; we gave up our rights and protections rather a bit more quietly.

The very people whom we count on to protect us did this to us, after we had been assaulted and were vulnerable--after 9/11. They have been stripping away our Individual rights; our right to Due Process; our First Amendment freedoms: Speech, the Press, Religion, Assembly and Association; our Fourth Amendment right to protection from illegal Search and Seizure; and our Sixth Amendment right to Counsel. And they took away these rights and protections, and continue to do so, "to keep us safe."

Guess what? That's the same argument the Sherrif's Office used to explain why they forcibly stripped the assault victim held in custody. Unable to call it a "strip search" because of the man hands involved, they said it wasn't a strip search. They said it was, "for her own safety." They did it to "protect her."

So the people who were supposed to protect her when she was hurt, turned on her, stripped her bare, and left her naked in a jail cell for her own safety.

That may be the reason I am so horrified. Because here, in the twilight of Democracy, that is what I feel the Bush administration is doing to us all.

Torn Liberty, originally uploaded by Mr. Guybrarian.

TAGS: , , , ,

Monday, January 21, 2008


"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes
through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."

Stand up, America.