Category Archives: First Amendment Issues

Tennessee Legalizes Bullying Gays as Christian Fundie Right

Excerpt from TheGailyGrind http://www.thegailygrind.com -

Tennessee’s “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” actually mandates that schools allow students the use of public school facilities — including the school’s public address system, classrooms and school assemblies — and makes schools “[p]rovide the forum in a manner that does not discriminate against a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint.”

An evangelical student, or example, could preach the gospel during a science class, or “witness” during English. Attacks on LGBT people and same-sex marriage are automatically protected under this bill, offering anti-gay students a state-sponsored license to bully. And of course, a student could claim they worship Satan and subject their classmates to that “religious viewpoint” as well.

The bill, of course, likely violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but that rarely stops conservative lawmakers on a religious mission.

Republican governor Bill Haslam hopefully will show moral courage and veto this bill. If he signs it, he’ll be forcing all Tennessee students to be subjected to the religious beliefs of their classmates, and forcing Tennessee into a costly battle in court.

But given that the Tennessee senate passed the bill yesterday on a 32-0 vote, and the House passed it 90-2, any veto Haslam considers likely will be overridden.

 

Abby Martin Free to Tell the Truth on RT; Cenk Uygur Censored on “Liberal” Media

There’s been quite a kerfluffle about Russian TV (RT) and their coverage of the Ukrainian crisis. RT has been attacked as a Russian mouthpiece. Nevertheless, it is notable that ABBY MARTIN, a host of a program on RT, openly criticized Russian actions and retained her job while many journalists on so-called “free” media have been freed from their jobs for not toeing the established line. Cenk Uygur, a former MSNBC host, had this to say:

The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur appeared on RT recently with anchor Abby Martin where he was asked about the ongoing controversy surrounding the network’s coverage of Russia’s invasion of Crimea and press freedom in the United States. Uygur said that the distinction between the two countries was evident in the fact that he lost his job on MSNBC for criticizing President Barack Obama while Martin retained her job after criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Uygur told Martin that he lost his MSNBC show because the White House was not “happy” with his criticism of Obama from the left.

“People give RT a lot of flak for toeing the line of the Russian foreign policy perspective, but here we have a media apparatus entirely funded by corporations that toeing the line of the U.S. government,” Martin opined.

Martin added that CNN is moving to “reality TV” and entertainment journalism. “I think a lot of people on TV are good people and they don’t even quite realize that they’re part of this machine,” Uygur said. “But, what happened was, they got promoted because they toe the line.”

Both Martin and Uygur criticized CNN further for what they said was their “soap opera” coverage of the missing Malaysian passenger plane.[SOURCE: http://www.mediaite.com

Fact is, censorship is rampant in the United States and the corporate media readily follows whatever line is being promoted by the Military-Industrial Complex and its Wall Street allies. If you want to know whats going on in the world, do not limit yourself to a single source. Mix in a little BBC and RT and various foreign news sources along with alternative news, apply critical thinking and a healthy skepticism of everyone in power, and then you may get an approximation of the truth.

Government Spending for Salvation

Is there something strange in the water in Arizona?

In Phoenix, Arizona, someone arrested for prostitution may be brought to a Church for counseling. So a taxpayer-paid agent of the government compels one arrested for a crime to go to church. The accused is then counseled that they have a choice to make, they can choose to enter a church-run program to divert them away from prostitution or they opt to be run through the legal system and face imprisonment.

A self-respecting atheist, agnostic or humanist doesn’t really have a choice. They can be “saved” or imprisoned. If choosing to be saved they are obligated to reject their own beliefs. And this is all done under the power of the State and funded by taxpayers, regardless of the taxpayers’ personal beliefs.

When I was in Air Force boot camp, I was given a similar choice. I could choose to spend a restful Sunday morning in Church or I could do the units’ laundry. Less burdensome than imprisonment but a similar violation of my rights to hold religious opinions counter to that of established authority. Someone accused of prostitution does not lose their rights of conscience and should not be compelled by public authority to attend a religious program. Nor should nontheist or non-Christian taxpayers be compelled to fund such programs.

Unfortunately, such programs are popping up everywhere albeit perhaps guided by “good intentions”. The Obama administration has continued its predecessor’s Public-Faith Partnerships and is intentionally building upon a public policy foundation which diverts public dollars into the pockets of churches and church-related enterprise. It may not be Constitutional but it is a helluva good way to buy Christian votes.

Freedom Isn’t Given to Us, It’s Earned by Hard Work

In 2005, Laura Berg, a nurse at the Veterans Administration, wrote the following letter to a New Mexico based Internet news and information publication, “Alibi”.

Take a quick look.

Dear Alibi,

I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government. The Katrina tragedy in the U.S. shows that the emperor has no clothes! Bush and his team partied and delayed while millions of people were displaced, hundreds of thousands were abandoned to a living hell. Thousands more died of drowning, dehydration, hunger and exposure; most bodies remain unburied and rotting in attics and floodwater. Is this America the beautiful?

The risk of hurricane disaster was clearly predicted, yet funds for repair work for the Gulf States barrier islands and levee system were unconscionably diverted to the Iraq War. Money and manpower and ethics have been diverted to fight a war based on absolute lies!

As a VA nurse working with returning OIF vets, I know the public has no sense of the additional devastating human and financial costs of post-traumatic stress disorder; now we will have hundreds of thousands of our civilian citizens with PTSD as well as far too many young soldiers, maimed physically or psychologically—or both—spreading their pain, anger and isolation through family and communities for generations. And most of this natural disaster and war tragedy has been preventable … how very, very sad!

In the meantime, our war-fueled federal deficit mushrooms—and whither this debt now, as we care for the displaced and destroyed?

Bush, Cheney, Chertoff, Brown and Rice should be tried for criminal negligence. This country needs to get out of Iraq now and return to our original vision and priorities of caring for land and people and resources rather than killing for oil.

Katrina itself was the size of New Mexico. Denials of global warming are ludicrous and patently irrational at this point. We can anticipate more wild, destructive weather to occur as a response stress of the planet. We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times.

A letter of decided opinion surely, but not otherwise remarkable. One might find similar such expression everywhere in the press and online. Probably much milder than the posts found on this Blog.

Why are we discussing it? Because this simple little expression of an opinion was picked up by the VA and shuttled off to the FBI for an investigation on suspicion of “sedition”. The penalty under law for sedition is a $ 250,000 fine and 20 years in prison. Fortunately, unlike most of us who would be instantly cowed, Laura contacted the local ACLU which rushed to her defense. ACLU attorneys quickly informed the Federal Government through its agent, the VA, that “sedition”, the law and not the suspicion, consists of waging war against the U.S. and not the exercise of opinion.

The VA backpedaled and shifted its assertion that they had actually “suspected” that Government property, a computer, had been improperly used to print this expression of opinion. Later, the Government dropped this suspicion in the absence of  any evidence supporting it.

We are at all times in danger of tyranny. Our rights are preserved only through their exercise. Things we take for granted may at anytime be taken away. We should thank Laura Berg, and the ACLU, and assert our rights without reservation and by so doing, preserve them for our children and grandchildren.

SOURCE: alibi.com

NSA – STOP WATCHING US

 

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Exiled in the Cause of Liberty

Snowden

Why Wikileaks Is More Important to Us Than Obama

An officer in the Afghani National Police raped a 16-year-old girl. When the girl went to report this to the local police commander, the commander ordered his body guard to shoot her. The bodyguard refused and the commander shot him. The only reason we know this is because WIKILEAKS reported it in a release of confidential government documents.

This is why JULIAN ASSANGE is besieged in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. This is why Bradley Manning is serving time in a stockade. And this is why EDWARD SNOWDEN is in exile in Russia. The U.S. Government doesn’t want the truth to be told.

____________________

SOURCE: The Afghan news item was published in The New Yorker (August 9, 2010). The opinion is ours.

 

Targeting Assange, and . . . . .

Democracy Now reports (Feb 18, 2014):

Top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden have revealed new details about how the United States and Britain targeted the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks after it published leaked documents about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. According to a new article by The Intercept, Britain’s top spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, secretly monitored visitors to a WikiLeaks website by collecting their IP addresses in real time, as well as the search terms used to reach the site. One document from 2010 shows that the National Security Agency added WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to a “manhunting” target list, together with suspected members of al-Qaeda.

This means that if you merely visited the WIKILEAKS website, as has the Dissenting Democrat, the NSA has monitored your visit.

And JULIAN ASSANGE is now on the “Target List”. Will he end up on Obama’s Kill List? We don’t know but it’s certainly possible. For those readers who live outside America, how does it feel to be subjects of the American Empire? For American readers, how does it feel to live in a Rogue State?

Heads up, drones in the air.

Getting Nasty

The Government is concerned that it cannot come up with sufficient evidence to indict “enemies of the State” and so it has come up with an alternative strategy. Using its incredibly extensive powers to gather data secretly and illegally, the NSA will gather whatever it can on the porno preferences of enemies roving the internet and reveal those predilections to a public hungry for dirt.

All’s fair when you run a police state.

_______________

SOURCE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/11/27-0

 

Snowden Leaks U.S. Secrets to . . . . . Obama !?!?

The revelation from the Snowden Papers that the NSA had Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone under surveillance has produced a central fallout. Dueling leaks over the international embarrassment have forced the White House to a key admission: President Barack Obama did not know what the NSA was up to.

Ever since the Snowden revelations of the massive, world-girdling extent of NSA electronic surveillance surfaced, I have been wondering two things: Did they tell Obama about it when they took office in 2009? And, do they have something on Obama?

Outgoing NSA head Keith Alexander or his circle leaked to a German tabloid that Alexander told Obama about the tap on Merkel’s personal phone in 2010 and that Obama asked for more information on Merkel at that time.

That leak forced the White House (and the NSA) to deny the allegation and to see Alexander his leak and raise the ante.

The White House leaked that the Snowden revelations provoked a review of NSA programs and procedures, and the fact that the NSA had Merkel’s and 35 other world leaders’ personal phones under surveillance was revealed to the White House. Someone there then ordered this summer that the personal spying on Merkel and “some” other leaders be halted (the halt wasn’t ordered on all 35?).

In attempting to repair Obama’s reputation with his colleagues at the G-20, however, the White House counter-leakers have made an epochal and very serious revelation: The President wasn’t in the know. (Even in the best case scenario that he was told in 2010, he wasn’t in the know for the first 18 months of his presidency!)

Edward Snowden’s critics have alleged that he revealed classified US secrets to the enemies of the US. But it seems increasingly likely that he revealed them to   . . . Barack Obama.

Excerpt from Juan Cole’s column in Informed Comment (October 28, 2013)