Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stifling unpopular speech

We have, on this site, railed against "hate crime" laws because of the ambiguous, subjective nature of punishing people for the thoughts in their heads. And we believe such laws are downright unconstitutional due to their protection of members only of certain groups. (See "Increasing 'Hate Crime' Punishment Violates American Principles," "Law as thought control," and "Five more years for your thoughts.") Now, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation

tells of further ramifications of these laws.

Several years ago, when Pennsylvania was amending its "hate crimes" law, explains Weyrich, opponents of the law protested the inclusion of "sexual orientation" as one of the protected categories. Religious Christians, especially, feared that public opposition to homosexual activists might be forbidden or even legally punished. At the time, the proponents of the law dismissed these fears, assuring the opposition that First Amendment rights would not be curtailed. The amendment, writes Weyrich, was described as being "about the throwing of sticks and stones, not name-calling."

But at last year's "Outfest," a homosexual street event in Philadelphia, protesting Christians got a taste of the law. When attempting to distribute literature and recite Bible verses, they were physically jostled by members of a militant homosexual group, who were determined to interfere with or even stop the Christians' activities. Weyrich writes:

Eleven Christians ended up in jail. Five Christians faced charges. Four adult Christians were ordered by Judge William Austin Meehan to stand trial on charges of criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways. The Christians who quoted Scripture (which led to their being charged) confronted the possibility of total prison sentences as long as 47 years. . . .

Fortunately, in mid-February, Judge Paula Dembe ruled that there was no basis for the charges. She said, "We are one of the very few countries that protects unpopular speech … We cannot stifle speech because we don’t want to hear it, or we don’t want to hear it now." That is not really the end of the affair for as long as the hate crimes provision is on the books in Pennsylvania the fact is that Christian activists remain at risk for simply speaking what they believe. . . .

The Philadelphia case should only be more troubling when one realizes that the USA-PATRIOT Act has changed the definition of domestic terrorism from those acts that are true acts of violence to any violation of federal or state criminal law -- including misdemeanors -- that are deemed dangerous to human life and could be used to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population."

As we get closer to living in a society where "terrorism" is whatever the state claims it to be, Weyrich is wise to look at some recent precedents set in England, where Parliament is considering making even more stringent its current laws against "hate speech." He observes that the same assurances that such laws will not debilitate free speech rights are being given, as the House of Lords prepares to pass new legislation.

Weyrich could also look northward to Canada, where conformity to political correctness is expected in almost every sphere of life. Website owners have been prosecuted for publishing negative commentary about homosexuals and pedophiles, with a court ruling that such remarks were "likely" to expose members of these groups to "hatred or contempt." A Tribunal supported the ruling and added that it is not necessary to prove, in fact, that anyone is actually victimized by negative statements, if it is decided that one has created a "climate of homophobia."

"Hate crime" laws are now rife throughout Europe. For a sermon preached in 2003, in Sweden, Pastor Ake Green was arrested and found guilty of "hate speech against homosexuals." Weyrich is not off-base in seeing this type of censorship as the goal of many American homosexual lobbyists and their supporters. He sums up the reasons why "hate crime" laws are unnecessary with this rational objection: "Every American state and the District of Columbia have laws on the books to bring perpetrators of violence against any law-abiding citizen. The idea of 'hate' crimes represents a significant departure from the Anglo-American conception of justice."

Source: Issues and Views

And now make way for "word crimes"

And now make way for "word crimes"

There are so many voices out there--on the ideological right and left--but it seems to make no difference. The Founders' Constitution grows more threadbare by the minute. An American citizen has already been jailed for saying the word "nigger" (white, of course; there would not be enough jails to incarcerate the blacks who use the expression), so the precedent has been set--punishment by the state for the use of an "incorrect" word.

As such word crimes made their way into the legal systems throughout Europe and even in England, most Americans who were paying attention still did not believe that the Bill of Rights could ever be gutted to such a degree. Writes Paul Craig Roberts: "Both the U.S. and Europe now have crimes of opinion, a defining feature of Oceania in George Orwell's 1984. Americans and Europeans are subject to arrest and imprisonment for words judged offensive by the therapeutic state. This frightening departure from Western tradition is justified in the name of curtailing hate and advancing human rights."

Today's England seems to point the way to the American future. The BBC reports a chilling scenario that recently took place there. Hate crime raids. You got it. Police raids against people who are known to think certain thoughts. To investigate "allegations of racism and homophobia," claims the BBC, the police, in November, raided 150 addresses across London. In England, a "threat" is now defined by the person who claims to be threatened. Harsh words can constitute harassment, if the targeted person claims that such words made him or her "fearful of bodily harm."

According to the BBC, 27 people were charged, as a result of the raids, with most being arrested "on suspicion of making racist threats and of homophobic harassment." Claims the BBC: "The raids signal the start of a day of police action against 'hate crime'--offences against people on the grounds of their race, faith, religion, disability, or sexuality."

Back here in the USA, you now rarely hear the expression, "It couldn't happen here." Maybe it's because we know that we're slipping and sliding away from a personal option like, "I don't approve of the language you use, so I'm no longer going to socialize with you." - to - "I don't like the language you use, so I'm going to call the police."

Words can offend, even when they're painted on posters and signs. That's what some Florida protesters learned when they demonstrated at a public rally in Tampa during a visit by President Bush and his brother Jeb, the state's Governor. Some of the posters by the anti-Bush demonstrators called for an investigation of the 2000 presidential election. After the police insisted that such signs be put away, the protesters asked why the same demand was not made of the carriers of pro-Bush signs. Their temerity resulted in handcuffing and forcible removal from the grounds. Two of the arrested were charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing; both charges were later dismissed. Needless to say, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the city of Tampa for violation of free speech rights. It couldn't happen here?

Source: Issues and Views

Increasing "Hate Crime" Punishment Violates American Principles Generic penalties are more than sufficient

In their book, Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics (Oxford University Press), law professor James Jacobs and lawyer Kimberly Potter dissect and challenge the rationale for "hate crime" legislation. Here is some of what they have to say:

It is a serious mistake for the government to pursue the goal of seeking to identify and highlight the maximum possible amount of prejudice in the crime problem by counting as a hate crime every offense motivated in any degree by the offender's prejudice. This definition sweeps under the hate crime umbrella crimes involving low-intensity prejudices that bubble to the surface during ad hoc conflicts. The majority of hate crimes turn out to be fights involving epithets rather than "hard core" ideologically driven violence by people identified with extremist groups or causes. Because the former are much more numerous than the latter, the numbers suggest a picture of American society as a conglomeration of clashing identity groups. Defining the prejudice-motivated criminal as a group representative rather than as a lone outlaw transforms the social understanding of crime from aberrant and deviant behavior into the kind of sociopolitical conflict among broad social groupings that marks the current situation in the former Yugoslavia. . . .

Hate crime cannot be accurately counted because, given the ambiguous, subjective, and contentious concept of prejudice, it cannot be accurately defined. Anything like an accurate accounting is also doomed by the difficulty of reliably determining the motivation of individual and group offenders.

The FBI's annual reports, produced pursuant to the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, have been fragmentary, nonuniform, and distortive. They have shed much more heat than light. Clearly, they have not contributed to a more accurate understanding of crime, prejudice, or prejudice-motivated crime in American society; nor have these reports laid the basis for more effective law enforcement. If anything, some journalists, advocacy groups, and academics have used this government-sponsored hate crime accounting system to create the false impression that the nation is experiencing an epidemic of prejudice-motivated crime of every kind. Then pundits and commentators claim that the statistics only represent the tip of the iceberg, that is, they indicate massive prejudice among the vast majority of law-abiding citizens. Some writers find in the statistics evidence of an imminent race war. . . .

We do not believe that crimes motivated by hate invariably are morally worse or lead to more severe consequences for victims than the same criminal act prompted by other motivations. Of course, assassinations and firebombings rooted in prejudice and hate deserve the severest punishments, but so do all assassinations and firebombings. Generic criminal and sentencing laws provide draconian penalties, including the death penalty in some jurisdictions, for murder, terrorism, and bombings. There is no need for, and sometimes no possibility of, more severe penalties when such terrible crimes are motivated by anti-Semitism, misogyny, or other prejudices. It certainly would be ironic if the consequence of the importation of the civil rights paradigm into criminal law was the execution of prejudiced murderers, some percentage of whom would be blacks and members of other minority groups.

We do not believe that across-the-board sentence enhancement for hate crimes can be justified. The breadth of the definition of hate crime means that the typical hate crime will not be a neo-Nazi assassination of a civil rights worker but, more likely, a fight in a campground or on a basketball court involving the utterance of a racist, sexist, or other bigoted epithet. Further, most crimes labeled as hate crime are committed by young people, a high percentage of them juveniles. *

To punish prejudiced offenders two or three times more severely than otherwise similarly situated offenders strains constitutional doctrine and violates principles of proportionality. Enhancing the criminal sentence because of the offender's prejudiced motivation is essentially punishing the offender for his beliefs and opinions. While we have no doubt that holding and acting on negative stereotypes and prejudiced beliefs is wrong and ought to be condemned, punishing an offender whose crime traces to such views twice or three times more severely than his fellow otherwise-motivated colleague in crime seems to us disproportionate punishment and a violation of the First Amendment.

-- Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics, by James Jacobs and Kimberly Potter, is in bookstores, and can be purchased from Oxford University Press.

Source: Issues and Views

A glass of wine with your picnic? It's against the law

More than 700 “controlled drinking zones” have been set up across England, giving police sweeping powers to confiscate beer and wine from anyone enjoying a quiet outdoor tipple.

Local authorities are introducing the zones at a rate of 100 a year, The Times has learnt. Some cover whole cities, a radical departure from what the law intended.

Once a control zone is in place, police can seize alcohol from anyone who is not on licensed premises, even if the bottles or cans are unopened. Although drinking is not banned in the zones, police can ask anyone to stop drinking and it is an offence to refuse, punishable by a maximum £500 fine. No explanation or suspicion that the person could be a public nuisance is required. The highest fine will soon rise to £2,500.

Campaigners say that if the rapid spread of the zones is not halted it will soon be impossible to find anywhere to have a picnic or outdoor drink on a summer’s evening.

Laws giving local authorities the power to set up the zones, or “designated public place orders”, were introduced in 2001 at the height of government concern over public drunkenness. The law made clear that the zones should cover only streets or city centre areas with a record of alcohol-related disorder or nuisance.

There are now 712 zones, some covering vast areas where there is no record of disorder. There are city-wide bans in Coventry and Brighton, which cover even the quietest suburban streets. Birmingham tried to introduce a city-wide ban but had to back down in the face of public opposition. Instead it is introducing the drinking zones gradually across the city.

Camden in North London has a borough-wide ban, apart from Hampstead Heath, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. The Times has learnt that Lambeth in South London is planning to make the whole borough a controlled zone, with no exemptions, even in Brockwell Park, a local beauty spot that is popular with picnickers.

Research on the zones has been conducted by The Manifesto Club, a campaign group that challenges what it sees as excessive regulation.

It found that police are routinely ignoring Home Office guidelines and confiscating bottles of wine and beer from peaceful picnickers and other adults having a quiet drink outdoors. In some cases, drinks have allegedly been seized by police from adults who have just bought them from an off licence and are on their way home.

Police in Driffield, East Yorkshire (population 11,000), have confiscated alcohol from 117 people, the research found. Warwickshire police confiscated 150 cans and bottles of alcohol in two evenings during the annual Mop Fair in Stratford-upon-Avon last October, yet there was only one arrest for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

Police in Brighton and Hove appear to be the most energetic in the country. Their 45 community support officers are making 25 confiscations a week. The Manifesto Club was inundated with claims of over-zealous enforcement, such as two young women forced to pour away glasses of wine that they were drinking on the beach, and three men having cans of lager confiscated as they stood on the promenade. Researchers observed drinks being confiscated from people having a quiet drink while admiring the plants in the Pavilion Gardens.

The Manifesto Club estimates that, on current trends, 20,000 bottles or cans of alcohol will be confiscated over the summer months.

The Home Office acknowledged that there was a problem with the law, and pointed to revised guidelines issued to police and local authorities in December last year to try to curb over-zealous policing.

“The law is clear that these powers should only be used to address nuisance associated with drinking alcohol in a public place, not to disrupt peaceful activities such as family picnics or to challenge people consuming alcohol who are not causing a problem. We expect local police forces to use common sense in the application of these powers,” a Home Office spokesman said.

He said that the zones were never intended to cover entire boroughs.

To protest at what it considers an excessive approach, the Manifesto Club is hosting a picnic on Brighton beach with alcoholic drinks on Saturday.

Josie Appleton, author of the report, said that she hoped it would result in a more proportionate response towards drinking outdoors.

“These measures were designed to tackle serious public drunkenness and disorder, yet they are being used against people doing absolutely nothing wrong,” she said.

‘I had to pour beer down drain’

Dan Travis was leaving an off-licence in Brighton at 7pm with two cans of Kronenberg in his hand when two community support officers asked him to stop (Rosemary Bennett writes).

“They asked me if I knew about alcohol restriction zones and I said I didn’t,” said Mr Travis, a tennis coach. “They said, ‘We have to stop people who we think are drinking, not just drunk’. I pointed out that the cans were not even open, and they said that didn’t matter because they thought I was going to drink them in a public place. They asked me to pour it down the drain.”

Mr Travis, 37, who was stopped last summer, said he was particularly angered because he could not remember any consultation on the proposed restrictions. “I think they would not have got it through if there had been a meaningful consultation. Apparently, they held a few meetings. Of course, it is a good idea to get drunks off the street, but I know of families having picnics in Pavilion Gardens who have been ordered to stop drinking wine. That’s just ridiculous.”

Source: The Times Online

Supreme Court rejects school strip search

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A public school violated the privacy rights of a teenage girl who had to disrobe on suspicion she had ibuprofen pills, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in its first decision on student strip searches.

By an 8-1 vote, the justices upheld a ruling that the school and its officials violated the U.S. constitutional right that protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

The ruling by the nation's high court was a major defeat for school officials who had defended the strip search as necessary for student safety, school order and combating a growing drug problem.

School officials in Safford, Arizona, had ordered the strip search in 2003 of Savana Redding, who was 13 and in the eighth grade. It did not turn up any ibuprofen -- an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication used to treat fever, headaches and pain -- or any other drugs.

"Because there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution," Justice David Souter wrote for the court majority.

The school's policy prohibits the use, possession or sale of any drug on school grounds, including prescription and over-the-counter medications. A week before the search, a student became sick after taking pills from a classmate and said certain students were bringing drugs to school.

Following an assistant principal's orders, a school nurse had Redding remove her clothes, move her bra to the side and pull her underwear out, exposing her breasts and pelvic area, to see if she was hiding any ibuprofen pills.


The strip search was prompted by an unverified tip from a girl who had Redding's school planner and some ibuprofen. She claimed Redding had given her the pills.

Redding denied it and an initial search of her backpack and pockets did not turn up any ibuprofen. Officials then ordered the strip search.

In another part of the ruling, Souter said the school officials who ordered or carried out the search were entitled to immunity from liability because of uncertainty over whether the right had been clearly established at that time.

Redding said she felt humiliated and violated by the strip search. She said she was embarrassed, scared and about to cry.

Her lawyers said school officials could have kept her in the principal's office until a parent arrived or could have sent her home instead of requiring the strip search.

Adam Wolf, a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union who represented Redding, hailed the decision.

"Students and those who care about their well-being can breathe a sigh of relief," he said. "Today's ruling affirms that schools are not constitutional dead zones. Savana ... is pleased that other students will not have to go through the trauma that she experienced."

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens dissented from part of the ruling, saying they thought a student's right to privacy had been clearly established and the officials could be held liable.

Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the part of the ruling that Redding's privacy rights had been violated.

Thomas said the ruling "grants judges sweeping authority to second-guess the measures that these officials take to maintain discipline in their schools and ensure the health and safety of the students in their charge."

by James Vicini

Source: Reuters

Calif. panel clears professor who sent e-mail comparing Israel's Gaza policies to Holocaust

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A committee at a California university has cleared a professor who sent an e-mail comparing Israel's policies in Gaza to the Holocaust.

Officials at the University of California, Santa Barbara, sent a letter Wednesday to sociology professor William I. Robinson saying the committee had closed the matter.

In January, Robinson offended some students and others with an e-mail to his "Sociology of Globalization" class that juxtaposed grisly photos from the Nazi era with a recent Gaza offensive.

Jewish groups called the e-mail "hate spam" and claimed Robinson violated university policies barring professors from intimidating students and using campus resources for political reasons.

Robinson has said his justified criticism of Israel's policies should not be confused as anti-Semitism.

Source: Star Tribune

Proposed Federal Law Would Be a Hate Crime Against America

“We’re not going to win this case, but that’s okay. Once we get ‘hate crime’ laws on the books, we’re going to go after the Scouts and all the other bigots.”

This was a remark made in the gallery by the Clinton White House liaison for “gay” issues during U.S. Supreme Court hearings on the Boy Scouts case in 2000. She had whispered it to the Rev. Rob Schenck, whom she mistakenly thought was one of those liberal clerics who think God is still making up His mind about sexual morality.

The point is that the proposed federal “hate crime” law before the Senate is less about righting wrongs than it is about elevating sexual preferences -- all of them -- to civil rights status so they can be used as a battering ram against people with traditional values.

“Hate crime” laws ensure unequal justice. They empower some groups of victims at the expense of others. A grandma using an ATM machine should have as much protection under the law as a man walking out of a “gay” bar. But under the proposed federal “hate crimes” law, an assailant of a man perceived as homosexual would face greater penalties than grandma’s mugger.

Today (Thursday, June 25), the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909), which passed the House on April 29 in a largely partisan vote of 249 to 175, with 10 abstentions.

Named after the Wyoming college student beaten to death in 1998 and whose killers received the maximum in a state without a hate crimes law, S. 909 is not only unnecessary but poses an acute threat to constitutional civil rights. It’s a massive federal power grab over state criminal law, giving the attorney general’s office the power to intervene into a “hate crime” case whenever they feel it is necessary.

It would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of specially protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sex and religion. If this bill passes, the Congress of the United States will be officially creating a new civil rights category based on sexual confusion. Like “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” is infinitely flexible, and includes transvestitism (cross-dressing) and transsexualism (believing that one is in the wrong sex’s body and sometimes surgically changing one’s sex organs).

In the House version, an effort to amend the bill to exclude “pedophilia” was defeated in committee along party lines. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) even read a partial list of paraphilias from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, including pedophilia, and declared that “all of these philias and fetishes and isms that were put forward – need not live in fear because of who they are.”

This is why some of the bill’s opponents call it the “Pedophile Protection Act.”

Here’s how the law would work in practice: It would add penalties on top of those levied for criminal convictions, based on the perpetrators’ perceived beliefs or the victims’ group identification. In order to prove that the defendant holds particular beliefs, his or her speech, writing, reading materials and organizational memberships would become key evidence. “Have you now, or have you ever been involved with a homophobic organization (like, say, Catholic Charities)?”

Two paragraphs were inserted to mollify such concerns:
(3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.

(4) “FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.”

But American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) attorney John Armor notes, “This is a head fake for citizens who don't understand freedom of speech protections.”
Ken Klukowski, an ACRU senior legal analyst, explains, “Paragraph (3) is only a statement of the obvious, so it has no legal effect. No statute can abridge constitutionally-protected speech. If any speech is burdened, and the speaker files suit, then the process and the result is the same regardless of whether there is any paragraph such as (3). The court then looks to the speech in question, the nature of the burden on that speech, and what protection the First Amendment extends to that particular speech. The court does not look to language such as (3) in deciding the case. If the burden in the specific case is unconstitutional, then it's impermissible whether the statute acknowledges the fact or not. So (3) is just there to help pass the bill by giving people a talking point to say ‘this law does nothing to violate anyone's free speech rights.’ It makes no difference in court whatsoever.”

The bill also would create a federal slush fund for hate crime prevention programs at the state and local levels, including school programs that equate traditional morality with “bigotry.” The Justice Department’s “hate crime” section relies on material from groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lumps legitimate conservative and Christian organizations with “hate groups.”

Besides its threats to basic freedoms, the law is unnecessary. America is not awash in an epidemic of hate crimes, which constitute a microscopic portion of the more than 11 million crimes reported in the United States annually. In the latest crime report released in October 2008 by the U.S. Justice Department for 2007, nearly 80 percent of the 7,624 incidents of “hate crimes” listed in “crimes against persons” involved “intimidation” (47.4 percent) or “simple assault” (31.1 percent), which could involve nothing more than words.

The proposed federal hate crime law, like all hate crime laws, politicizes crime, leading to pressure on police and prosecutors to devote more of their limited resources to certain victims at the expense of others. For example, homosexual activist groups descended on Wyoming and created a media circus around the Matthew Shepard case, costing the state heavily for public relations. Meanwhile, the story of Kristin Lamb, an eight-year-old girl who a month before Shepard’s death was killed in Wyoming and her body thrown into a landfill, received virtually no news coverage or concerns about a possible “hate crime.”

Hate crime laws lay the groundwork for assaults on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. In Canada, Great Britain and Sweden, clergy have been investigated and arrested for advocating traditional morality.

“Hate crime” laws are already being used to silence people in the United States. A pastor in New York’s Staten Island saw two billboards with a Bible verse on them taken down in 2000 under pressure from city officials, who cited “hate crime” rhetoric.

In Philadelphia, 11 Christians were arrested and jailed overnight for singing and preaching in a public park at a homosexual street festival in 2004. Five of them were bound over and charged with five felonies and three misdemeanors, totaling a possible 47 years in jail. These charges, based on Pennsylvania's “hate crimes” law, hung over them for months until a judge finally dismissed them.

Freedom-loving Americans deplore any violence against innocent victims (including homosexuals), but strongly oppose “hate crime” laws as unjust and dangerous.
All people deserve impartial justice under the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The proposed federal hate crime law imperils that cherished right on many levels.

by Robert H. Knight

Source: Human Events

Freedom of Speech vs. Censorship on Facebook: A Community Concern

After a long day at work, I log onto my Facebook account and I see a group invite for a Petition to remove “Soldiers are not heroes” from Facebook. I quickly read the synopsis which is opposed to this separate group, “heroes,” whose basic belief is that we are too big into hero worshipping our soldiers and in opposition to the current wars that are going on.

I went to click on the link to confirm my membership, but something inside me hesitated. I’m sitting there with my mouse over the “Confirm Membership,” button and I start thinking, isn’t this censorship at its basic level? Just because we may not agree with something, does that give us the right to have it removed? Do we have the right to pressure Facebook to remove it just because a larger majority feels that this group is inappropriate?

All questions are loaded questions and really there is no right or wrong answer. It’s an opinion. And, as citizens, we ALL have a right to an opinion and we ALL have a right to express that opinion. Whether it is in regards to the wars, politics, sports, or a Facebook group.

The question is not whether we should petition Facebook to remove the “Soldiers are not heroes” group, but whether Facebook should remove it. Facebook does have the right to remove this or any other group if they feel like it is in violation of its user agreement. But the question is: Is it?

In Facebook’s own Facebook Principles, it talks about total and complete equality for everybody. Here is an excerpt:

· Fundamental Equality
Every Person - whether individual, advertiser, developer, organization, or other entity - should have representation and access to distribution and information within the Facebook Service, regardless of the Person’s primary activity. There should be a single set of principles, rights, and responsibilities that should apply to all People using the Facebook Service.

In reviewing Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, the only clause I found that they even could use was under the “Safety” section:

6. You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

After I hesitated, I did review the “Soldiers are not heroes” website, and the answer is “No” It is not in violation of any of those mentioned above and I do not believe that it should be deleted. Nor do I think that we should take it upon ourselves to ask Facebook to remove the group because we do not agree with their beliefs.

I may not personally agree with their message, but it is neither hateful nor threatening. It is an opinion from a minority group of people that have a legal right to have an opinion to express themselves as much as we do.

And this is not even the worse group out there. I believe it has gained more attention due to the current wars. But the following also have groups on Facebook (and I cringe even posting these and have do so only based on the criteria I noted above) these groups (fingers cramping):

Anti-Jewish Internet Defense Force
Neo Nazi - white power
F*** Islam (8 of those groups, I didn’t post the link due to the explicit nature of the titles)

So, what do we do? In my opinion, we tolerate. We expect people to respect our opinions. We must remember to respect theirs. Keep in mind that they probably disagree with us as much as we disagree with them. So we have to, take that step back, take our finger off of that mouse and let them have their say. It may take a hard swallow and a shudder down the spine, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Freedom of speech and freedom to peacefully assemble is one of our most significant and most cherished rights that we as Americans have. That is one of the things that make our country so unique. That also means that we will be exposed to beliefs and opinions that we do not agree with or like. There has always been a delicate balance between what is appropriate and the right of free speech and right to peacefully assemble. For over 200 years, we have been able to find that balance; with a few bumps in the road, of course. However, when we start asking to remove groups that we don’t agree with, that balance can topple and those bumps can turn into potholes quick.

Now that is a scary path that I don’t want to go down.

by David Grimes

Source: YuBlog

ADL Hate Laws Hate Freedom of Speech

The Anti-Defamation League (as its contrarian euphemism for an organization that does little, if anything, to fight defamation against Arabs and Muslims by rabid Islamo-phobes in the U.S. like Jewish-American Michael Savage) is “again” proposing another anti-free-speech bill disguised as the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act” HR 1966, which makes it a thought crime to “intimidate” and “harass” anyone over the Internet or on the airwaves.
ADL Hate Laws Hate Freedom of Speech

By Dugg Duty

The Anti-Defamation League (as its contrarian euphemism for an organization that does little, if anything, to fight defamation against Arabs and Muslims by rabid Islamo-phobes in the U.S. like Jewish-American Michael Savage) is “again” proposing another anti-free-speech bill disguised as the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act” HR 1966, which makes it a thought crime to “intimidate” and “harass” anyone over the Internet or on the airwaves.

Who is “responsible,” as response for one’s subjective feelings and imaginations of “feeling” intimidated? Does ‘intimidation’ mean to become ‘timid,’ and if so whose fault is it that a person becomes timid (easily frightened, shy, or unable to argue against sound logic)? Are we to suppose that political correctness should be “dictated” by the dictators of laws—because this is really what this law amounts to—the allocation to some of the special the right to dictate what is politically correct to discuss and argue?

And why is it that right-wing Zionists are not timid about continually trying to turn this country into a legalistic regime in which more and more freedom of speech is repressed. Educated Jews know that the antidote to lies and propaganda is “more” un-intimidated free speech to counter those lies and propaganda. Rather it is when a freedom of speech and the right to speak one’s truth threatens various kinds of dictatorship and tyranny that some right wing, fear-mongers choose to “censor” the most important elements of out-spoken-ness by saying they are only suppressing the truly hateful (an abstract concept if ever there was one).

Call 1-877-851-6437 or 1-202-225-3121 to oppose this bill—this is very dangerous legislation. to contact people on House Judiciary Committee that is meeting Thursday June 25, 2009 about this bill.

This kind of law is pandering to the worst kind of victimization by stating “… whoever transmits … any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined …”

So who then are the Gods-as-people who shall decide the motives of intentions of others’ speech? Who are the psychiatrists and political psychologists who will arbitrate exactly when speech causes emotional distress to a person—as if it were an “illegitimate” purpose if others happen to feel distress—when distress is internal and subjective?

Well we might then not argue at all since arguing, which sometimes gets heated, can evoke emotional distress in others—irrespective of the topic? For that matter we might stop all prosecution since writing a legal argument and entering it into a computer or recording it is a form of electronic transmission? Perhaps if one were to argue that the Israelis are stomping on Palestinians and torturing them in their prisons—it might cause emotional distress to some who would not rather become “aware” of such worldly realities? Maybe the physical distress of torture and brutality is to be allowed since some Jewish Americans just might feel intimidated and distressed by such an accusation?

Or maybe we are not suppose to discuss the fact that some of the right-wing Israeli and Jewish-American bent played a significant part in propagating the lies that brought us into war with Iraq—a war that would be considered illegal by the Nuremberg trials? Perhaps the mere suspicion that Israeli spies have stolen America’s national security secrets and handed them to others would be too distressing for mere minds of mortals to contemplate—better such facts remain buried and not prosecuted by the chickens of U.S. Congress and the submissive Obama White House? And would most likely be a crime to question any person’s loyalty to another country over loyalty to their own home of domicile? So apparently any pungent accusation or suspicion could be deduced, with a modicum of verbal craft, by the self-appointedly, politically correct, as intimidating and distressing?

So where are the Jerry Spensors of the world, author of how to win an argument every time, when you really need them? Spensor, as a famous lawyer, wrote a great argument of a book on why it is important to have argumentation—unless you want more forms of tyranny and dictatorship—which don’t require any input from anyone—irrespective of their needs or perspectives.

Yet was not it another famous lawyer—Alan Dershowitz, self-appointed lawyer for right-wing Israel, who attempted to suppress the publication of a book criticizing his book—trying one way or another to “Finkelstein” his left-wing Jewish enemy? Yet Dershowitz advises his students to have a good “enemy list” in another of his books—and that would likely include people critical of Israel—but then it is not likely that his writings and behavior is the target of this new anti-free-speech bill had in mind about those who intimidate?

Or was it not right-wing American-Jews like Daniel Pipes’ “Campus Watch” and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation;s “David Project” and David Horowitz’s “Islamo-fascism Awareness Week, etc., that advocated for suppression of free speech on American campuses if critics of Israel were involved? (see “The New McCarthyism” The Nation November 12, 2007.)

More recently another left-wing American Jewish professor, William Robinson, has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinains in Gaza as similar a Warsaw concentration camp, and he is being “labeled” anti-Semitic by right-wing Jews and blackballed to get him ousted from his job. Left to their devised any questions about interpretations of “any” aspect of the Holocaust will also be off limits—especially since it is used to psychologically coerce Americans into accepting Israeli Middle East politics—like another war in the Iran, etc.

And that is exactly the problem—right-wing advocates for Zionism constantly attempts to say that it is extremely wrong and inappropriate to compare any other human experience to what Jews suffered in World War II—that it is hateful to compare the trials and tribulations of sufferings Jews by the Nazis as in any way similar to what other people have suffered—that the persecution of Jews have been victimized so far beyond the pale that whatever is done in the name of Zionism today is “beyond” criticism—even if the critics are Jews themselves.

Granted the evils perpetrated against Jews historically are ghastly but two wrongs don’t make one right—nor do three or four wrongs make one right! So get over it right-wingers if you think you can blackmail and blackball every critic to your form of censorial despotism.

We in the United States of America can “never” succumb to this emotional and political blackmail that is so much of the Zionist strategy to psychologically hamstring our right to free speech. For far too long religions have been used to suppress and repress freedoms. They have been used to persecute, prosecute, kill, imprison, and make war—going back at least as far as the Assyrian’s habit of using religious language to disguise criminal acts of war.

The biggest problem that immigrating Caucasians from Europe brought to America were the many European delusions of Christianity—handed over to pagans by warring Romans, which is based ultimately on psychological terrorism—the brainwashing of people to think that a right-wing God would crucify his own son or would put souls into eternal torture. We have had enough of the “European disease” that was so paranoid of religious persecution that they fought all manner of the establishment of national religion—but still allowed the delusions of religious freedom to foment.

We have had enough of the psychiatric dysfunctional realities of Abrahamic religions and there authoritarian psychology! We will not succumb to the religious terrorism and intimidation of both New and Old Testaments of the Bible. It is time to put a stop to this madness—and if that sounds distressing to some than too bad—because what religion has “intended” historically has been far worse. And should the authors of the Bible be prosecuted for intimidation and distress—maybe that would be the way to go—since they are long gone but we could get quite a lesson of psychology out of it?

It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote:

“The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt about what parts of them are genuine.”

Worst still, as one only need read Jonathan Kirsch’s “Moses: A Life” to realize that the whole story of Moses is a fraud—an more importantly that the delusion of that God of Moses was a tyrant and a dictator who gave “his” Hebrew people (if you can believe that) the supposed right to kill off the many other peoples who then inhabited Canaan eons ago. There was no “real” God behind the Deuteronomy commands to kill the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Pirizzites, Hivites an Jebusites, etc, (see Deut. 7:1-2). This was pure right-wing propaganda—and the God of the Bible should be “judged” by human rights groups like any other human rights violator.

Granted they did not have human rights groups back then but we ARE NOT going to advocate for a Zionism TODAY based on past historical delusions. Israel is going to be judged by “human” standards today—period. Some have readily acknowledged that the Bible is not historically accurate but still feel that Jews “deserve” to have a Torah State! Well then no doubt the same psychology of Moses, as purported speaker for his God, who say that God says they need to kill off the Palestinians and throw them into the sea? But do two wrongs do not make one right. Does any amount of unfairness justify another proposition for unfairness—in human terms?

There are those that now claim that to criticize the Zionist project is beyond the pale—that it is politically incorrect to question Jews right to have a religious homeland. Wrong—nothing is beyond freedom of speech—that is what it “means” to have freedom of speech—when “no” presumed authority is too high to be questioned and doubted by the soul of man.

The United States and Israel are on collision course of values—we advocate political freedom for “all” citizens—whereas is Israel you need to be Jewish to be considered a real citizen. But it is time to tell Israelis that they need to separate Church and State if they want our American support. President Obama ought behind his rhetoric of Audacity of Hope and put some teeth into his cheerleader suavity—or he’lll end up another looser like Bush towing the Israeli Lobby’s line. It was bad enough he was stupid enough to think there was still a chance at securing an independent state for the Palestinians when Israel has so badly mangled any reasonable re-accommodation of territory—while giving weasel words play thinking the Americans eternal suckers for empty speech. There is a sane and just path and that is to tell Israelis that a Jewish State is not supportable by American values—and if they want to fight it out with others let them do it on their own.

Israelis are no better than the Muslim countries they constantly criticize. Their religion is no more or less humane than other people’s religions—but it has always been a problem that Abrahamic religious fanatics appropriate exceptional loyalty to their deities—even the Romans asked the Christians during the time of their persecution to simply respect the Roman deities—but their maniacal monotheistic religion would have none of it.

Stop religious repression—how many decades and centuries is this war of ideology going to continue when the world needs to address other serious matters? Eric Alterman was right in his The Defamation League when he said the ADL as a “league” does not exist except in the name of Abe Foxman.

This bill is intimidating and distressful. Americans have the right and the Duty to shout their views vehemently and boldly from the rooftops and the mountaintops—as strenuously and vociferously as they can—and too bad if people are timid by it!

P.S. If you feel this “argument” is important feel free to email it to your friends and family while you still have such freedom.

Source: Indy Media Rochester

Cop who kicked gangbanger in head caters to gangbangers on the web

Last month we saw how El Monte Police Officer George Fierro kick a gangbanger in the head after having chased him for several miles in a car, then several blocks on feet.

The incident was caught on a live camera from an overhead news copter and we also saw Fierro high-five another officer who was at the scene with him.

While it may not have been pretty scene - and it probably wasn’t legal - it was their way of showing the gangbangers who was boss.

And while many people on this blog criticized Fierro, many cop supporters hailed him as a hero and wrote it off as nothing but a “distraction blow.”

Mexican Mafia

But they probably didn’t know that Fierro runs an online business that caters to these same gangbangers.

Torcido Clothing, according to its website, “features some of the hardest authentic jail house threads for the streets. Straight from East L.A., Califas…” Califas is Chicano slang for Southern California.

Other items for sale include t-shirts with hand logo of the notorious Mexican Mafia prison gang and t-shirts replicating those apparently found in the Los Angeles County Jail in 1750 unit, the gang segregation unit. Just in case your authentic shirt was ripped off by other inmates during your stay.

Fierro ads a bit of authenticity and cuteness by stating that “visitation is open 24 hours” for shoppers.

His shoppers, who never come face to face with him unless he is kicking their head in, probably have no idea they are buy merchandise from an actual cop.

The Los Angeles Times reports that one El Monte councilwoman didn’t mind the kick to the head. She just didn’t appreciate the business.

“Our police officers spend their time doing everything possible to prevent gang members promoting themselves and here is an officer who is doing his best to glorify gangs,” she said.

In 2007, an LAPD officer discovered that Fierro was running the site and sent out an email asking the following:

“Has anyone seen or know about this gang clothing that a police officer is selling to gangsters. . . . I understand the clothing has hiding places for contraband, guns and dope. Things that can hurt our real cops on the street.”

This offended Fierro who ended up filing a lawsuit for libelous statements. After all, he insisted, the clothes he sells to gangbanger criminals do not contain hiding places for guns and dope.

Gang intervention experts said wearing this clothing can dangerous in many neighborhoods.

And the El Monte Police Chief said he didn’t mind because it was a “freedom of speech thing.”

But we’re sure some of the gangbangers are going to mind when they learn they’ve been doing business in with a cop liable to kick them in the head when they’re down.

By Carlos Miller

Source: Photography Is Not A crime

Pro Libertate: An American "Yezhovschina"?

Pro Libertate: An American "Yezhovschina"?

Maxwell Smart: Are you a psychologist, Dr. Stueben?

Dr. Stueben
: I'm the president of the psychologist society for mental health and adjustment through fulfillment.

: W
hat kind of an organization is that?

: We're a hate group.

Smart (following a double-take): A hate group?

Stueben: Oh, in the sense that we cure hate and fear. We hate hate. Hate it.

From "All in the Mind," a 1965 episode offering redundant proof that Get Smart was the work of perceptive and prescient satirists.

A September 1996 American Bar Association conference on terrorism and the law in Washington, D.C. presented me with an opportunity I had long coveted.

Among the presenters at that event was former New York Times legal and political affairs columnist Anthony Lewis, long one of the most predictable journalistic voices on the left. One of his favorite tropes was the description of the American Right as "merchants of hate," an expression that seemed to serve as the title for every second or third column Lewis wrote.

If you think this is Wallace Shawn, you've fallen victim to one of the classic blunders:
This is actually former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis. The estimable Mr. Shawn -- character actor, vocal artist, and accomplished playwright, is seen below and to the right.

During a break in the proceedings I cornered Lewis, who looked a little less like Wallace Shawn than I had anticipated. By way of introduction, told him (in all sincerity) that I had enjoyed reading his book Gideon's Trumpet as a High School student.

"I've long wanted to ask you something about a subject you frequently address in your column," I continued. "You often make reference to `right-wing hate groups.' Do you acknowledge the existence of left-wing hate groups, as well -- and do you consider them to be a potential threat to society?"

Lewis stood in genuinely stunned silence for a good half a minute or so before tentatively saying, "Well, I suppose there could be such a thing as a left-wing hate group" -- a made with the same grudging, reluctant tone one might use when conceding the possible existence of unicorns, extra-terrestrial intelligence, or cerebral matter inside of Sean Hannity's skull.

Like many others of his political persuasion, Lewis was hard-wired in such a way that he could clearly discern "hate" only when it manifest itself among his political opponents.

He had internalized the conceit that the left, as the embodiment of progress and tolerance, was utterly devoid of hatred and similar base motivations; those impulses are monopolized by the forces of "reaction." Since, according to this ideological model, conservatives are hostage to false consciousness, they really aren't honest about their own motives and indeed cannot be.

Even if they don't consciously hate anybody, the politics of conservatives and other "right-wingers" are objectively hateful, you see, because they oppose inevitable social progress. What other motive could exist for such behavior, apart from simple, irrational belligerence or even outright hatred?

The only politically acceptable hatred, therefore, is to hate the haters -- those whose attitudes and opinions are irreconcilable with progressive prejudices. Where possible, efforts should be made to rehabilitate haters into useful members of the collective -- useful, that is, if only as informants and teaching examples. But when dealing with authentically incorrigible haters -- particularly those unwilling to confess that hatred is their genuine motivation -- sterner measures may be necessary.

This was the logic -- if that word applies -- behind the political use of psychiatry in the Soviet Union: Only someone clinically deranged could hate socialism, and since such people were a danger to themselves and society, they had to be incarcerated in the psiushka (psychiatric gulag) and forcibly cured of their anti-social(ist) tendencies. The heroic former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky recounts his own experience in the Soviet psycho-gulag in his memoir, To Build a Castle.

The "Poisoned Dwarf": Nikolai Yezhov, diminutive in stature, crippled in body and morals, was the intellectual architect and, as head of the NKVD, chief enforcer of Stalin's Great Purge.

The Soviet use of psychiatry was an outgrowth of the Regime's longstanding policy of pre-emption: Threats to "stability" and "social order" had to be recognized and aborted before they reached maturity.

This concept was embedded in the Soviet Union's Fundamental Principles of Penal Legislation, which identified the central mission of the state's law enforcement apparatus (chiefly the Ckeha or secret police, by whatever acronym it was later known) as that of identifying, and removing the threat of, "socially dangerous persons."

This notion was encapsulated in Article 58 of the penal code, which served as the legal foundation for the Soviet regime's perpetual war of terror against dissent.

The law dealing with "socially dangerous persons," observes the authoritative Black Book of Communism, dealt with "any activity that, without directly aiming to overthrow or weaken the Soviet regime, was in itself `an attack on the political or economic achievements of the revolutionary proletariat.' The law thus not only punished intentional transgressions but also proscribed possible or unintentional acts."

And the term "socially dangerous persons" itself was based on "extremely elastic categories" that permitted the imprisonment of people in the gulag "even in the absence of guilt." This is because that the Soviet rulers were pleased to call "the law" specified that incarceration, exile, or execution could be employed as means of "social protection" against "anyone classified as a danger to society, either for a specific crime that has been committed or when, even if exonerated of a particular crime, the person is still reckoned to pose a threat to society."

Note carefully here how Soviet "law" discarded entirely with the idea of punishing overt acts, focusing instead on the supposed motivations of those deemed innately threatening to the regime. Note as well how the system was rigged to nullify exculpatory verdicts.

Of course, the Soviet government punished common criminals, at least those it didn't recruit into the ranks of its enforcement agencies. But as Paul Gregory points out in his book Lenin's Brain, most of those imprisoned in the gulag were there not because of what they had done, but because of what the state suspected they could do; they were being isolated from the rest of society "because of actual or suspected opposition to the Soviet state."

In 1935, an individual best described as five feet of feculent malice added another key element to the Soviet formula for institutionalized terror. A foul, vulgar little creature named Nikolai Yezhov, an intimate associate of Stalin, wrote a pseudo-academic paper contending that any form of political opposition should be treated as incipient terrorism.

Yezhov, who came to be known as "Stalin's Poison Dwarf," lusted to be head of the secret police. He secured that post following the assassination of Stalin's rival Sergei Kirov, an act of terrorism orchestrated by Stalin that inaugurated the campaign of official terrorism known as the Great Purge. Yezhov toppled his predecessor as head of the NKVD, Genrikh Yagoda, by accusing the old Bolshevik of being inadequately zealous in finding and eliminating Stalin's enemies. Yezhov distinguished himself by his murderous zeal until he, too, was denounced, tortured into multiple confessions, and executed.

Would-be commissarina for political correctness Bonnie Erbe, wearing red, of course.
For roughly three years, Yezhov conducted a reign of terror and persecution that came to be known as the Yezhovschina -- the "Era of Yezhov."

Viewed in the context of the Soviet regime's decades-long campaign of repression and terror, Yezhov's role in building the body count was relatively modest. The same really can't be said of his distinctive contribution to the art and practice of totalitarianism, namely the reductionist claim that all anti-statist activism will eventually beget terrorism.

Trace elements of the Poisoned Dwarf's influence -- or, at least, a toxin very similar in composition -- can be found in the Pentagon's claim that political protests are a form of "low-level terrorism."

Echoes of Yezhov's claim, and the Soviet doctrine of dealing pre-emptively with "socially dangerous persons," can also be heard in demands for federal action to imprison "haters" even in the absence of overt criminal acts.

Bonnie Erbe, who has afflicted public television for decades and now scribbes the occasional cyber-screed for CBS News, recently gave full-throated expression to the Soviet perspective on "pre-emption."

“If yesterday’s Holocaust Museum slaying … is not a clarion call for banning hate speech, I don’t know what is," shrilled Erbe, insisting that something must be done about ridding the Internet and the public dialogue of hate speech." But she wouldn't stop there; the purge would mean doing away with the "haters," as well.

Referring to the accused murderers of security guard Stephen Johns, abortionist George Tiller, and military recruiter William Long (whose alleged murderer was an American convert to Islam), Erbe insists: “It’s not enough to prosecute these murders as murders. They are hate-motivated crimes and each of these men had been under some sort of police surveillance prior to their actions. Isn’t it time we started rounding up promoters of hate before they kill?”

String up the barbed wire, sharpen the guillotine, fire up the crematoria: There are haters in our midst to be dealt with!

Please tune in...

... to my new show Pro Libertate Radio on the Liberty News Radio Network. And give me a call at 1- 866-989-6397 (NEWS).

One more thing...

Some of you might be interested in the developments I touch upon here.

On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Pro Libertate: Cheney's Revenge: Coming to a Police Station Near You (UPDATED, 6/10)

Pro Libertate: Cheney's Revenge: Coming to a Police Station Near You (UPDATED, 6/10)

Ryan S. Smith of Niagara Falls, New York, is a 21-year-old ex-con suspected of taking part in a vicious kidnapping and robbery.
He is, quite likely, a fairly nasty specimen of humanity. Whether or not that's the case, he will likely become a pivotal figure in the legal struggle over institutionalizing torture as method of enforcing court orders and conducting police interrogations.

In July 2006, four suspects invaded a home, bound and gagged two small children, and took the mother hostage. While one remained behind, three of the suspects took the mother to another home, where they shot a man while carrying out a robbery. (The victim, fortunately, survived.)

While watching the children, the fourth conspirator -- Smith, according to prosecutors -- helped himself to a soda, apparently unaware that by doing so he would leave behind a potentially critical quantum of DNA evidence.

Smith is also suspected of staging an armed hold-up of a convenience store on the following Christmas Eve. A glove found at the scene of that robbery also contained a DNA sample.
The DNA samples collected from the glove and the soda can were matched by the
FBI's Combined DNA System (CODIS) with a sample previously taken from Smith.

In August of last year, Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza issued an order requiring Smith to provide
a DNA sample via a painless swab of his inner cheek. Smith didn't object, and the sample was taken without difficulty.

At this point, the story becomes complicated by professional incompetence. The Niagara Falls Police sent the sample to the wrong lab, where it was opened and contaminated.

The investigators went back to Judge Sperrazza for a second order, which -- unlike the first one -- she granted
ex parte; this means that Smith's defense counsel was not informed or consulted. That last point is critically important, as we will see anon.

Smith bridled over the second order, refusing to provide a second DNA sample. This prompted the police to consult with the County District Attorney's office to learn how much force they could employ to compel Smith to provide potentially self-incriminating evidence.

Let's stop here to ask what should be an obvious question: In a system that is supposed to favor the rights of the accused over the convenience of the accuser, what sense does it make to have the prosecution decide the extent to which physical duress can be applied to force a defendant to incriminate himself?

The answer, it seems to me, is "none at all" -- unless, of course, the system as it actually exists is rigged to favor the needs of the prosecution, at whatever expense to the rights of the accused. Once this is understood, the next development in the Smith case is hardly surprising, however troubling it should be to people who care at all about due process.

As Detective Lt. William Thomson would later testify, Assistant Niagara County D.A. Doreen M. Hoffmann, who is presiding over the prosecution of Ryan Smith, instructed the police that "we could use the minimum force that was necessary" to force the suspect to submit to a DNA test.

Now, think carefully about that formulation: In principle, it authorizes the use of any amount of force needed to extract the sample, since the critical term is "necessary." As long as the police were reasonably careful in calibrating the duress the applied, they could continue escalating the level of force until it broke the suspect; wherever they end up would obviously be the "minimum" necessary to accomplish their objectives.

Smith was brought in handcuffs to the police station and informed that the investigators had been authorized to use physical force. Although nobody intended to harm him, Smith was told, the sample was going to be surrendered; it was just a question of how much he wanted to endure before it was. Smith still refused to comply.

Confronted with an intransigent suspect who refused to provide critical evidence, the investigators reluctantly strapped the handcuffed Smith to a downward sloping table, covered his face with a towel, and waterboarded him. He broke within seconds, and meekly permitted the DNA sample to be taken.

On the basis of the DNA evidence, Smith was hit with a 24-count criminal indictment. He was also charged with "criminal contempt of court"
for forcing his interrogators to torture him.

When Smith's defense counsel filed a motion to suppress the evidence based on Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections, the same Judge who issued the ex parte orders produced a ruling validating the use of waterboarding as means of forcing compliance, as long as it's not done "maliciously" or to "excess."

This account is true and accurate in every detail, save one - the specific torture protocol that was used to compel Smith to surrender a sample of his DNA.

He wasn't subjected to water torture; instead, he was given a brief taste of electroshock torture by way of a Taser that was used to inflict a "drive stun." This involves placing the prongs of the device directly on the body of the victim for a brief, painful, paralyzing charge.



While Smith was spared the much-discussed horrors of controlled drowning, there was no practical reason waterboarding
could not have been used, if his interrogators had chosen that method of "pain compliance," either at the beginning of their interrogation or after trying other modes that had failed. Remember, "minimum" force is left entirely to the discretion of the interrogators, and it's defined as whatever succeeds in extracting what is wanted from the suspect.

I don't presume to be a prophet, but I feel serenely confident in predicting this: If the tactics used in this case survive judicial scrutiny, the use of electro-shock and other torture protocols -- including waterboarding -- in suspect interrogation and enforcement of court orders will become not only acceptable, but routine.

In fact, electro-shock torture is already commonplace, albeit as a means of forcing unruly people -- not dangerous, not threatening, but merely uncooperative -- to submit to police orders.

The original rationale for the use of the Taser is that it provides a safe, non-lethal alternative to firearms for use in dealing with violent criminal suspects.

However, the much more common
use of the Taser is as an instrument of "pain compliance" when police confront peaceful but uncooperative citizens. "Pain compliance" is a legitimate means of subduing a violent suspect without placing the lives of others in jeopardy.

As a means of forcing non-violent citizens ("subjects" is actually the proper word) to submit to police in which there is no legitimate suspicion of a criminal act, "pain compliance" is nothing other than a species of torture: Submit, helot -- instantaneously and without back-talk -- or Officer Pavlov with get out the sizzle-stick and make you do the electron dance.

With police regularly using Tasers to administer summary punishment to non-compliant civilians, it's not surprising that their use has now been authorized as a means of extracting self-incriminating evidence from criminal suspects.

We shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that the domestic use of "enhanced interrogation" will be confined to enforcing court orders, as mortifying as that application is in and of itself; the welcome mat is now out for a return of the Third Degree, albeit in subtle, incremental steps.

What is striking about the case of Ryan Smith is the utter lack of exigent circumstances behind this ratification of official torture.

There was no "ticking bomb," no concealed nuclear weapon, no secret plan to spike municipal water supplies with chemical weapons.
Just a recalcitrant criminal suspect who was making things a little difficult for the police.

The crime itself took place three years ago. DNA evidence collected from the crime scene is as secure as can be expected, given the proven incompetence of the investigators. Smith's DNA is not mutable.

As New York criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield points out, "Normally, the refusal to comply with a court order would compel the police to let the prosecutor know, who would then move to have the defendant held in contempt for failure to obey the court order."

Judge Sperrazza is "the first judge in western civilization to say you can use a Taser to enforce a court order," complained Patrick Balkin, Smith's defense counsel. He also pointed out that the precedent could inspire other practical applications of electro-shock "pain compliance": “They have now given the Niagara Falls police discretion to Taser anybody anytime they think it’s reasonable. [Sperrazza's] decision says you can enforce a court order by force. If you extrapolate that, we no longer have to have child support hearings; you can just Taser the parent.”

In a lawsuit filed against the City of Niagara Falls, Smith alleges that he was "tortured into unconsciousness" by repeated Taser charges. The police investigators insist that they were much gentler in the application of electro-shock trauma, but their testimony regarding the number and duration of shocks is mutually self-contradictory (as well as inconsistent with the record kept by the Taser unit itself).

There are a number of other troubling aspects to the case. Smith's defense attorney contends Smith was never shown a copy of the court order demanding the first DNA sample; the police insist that the paperwork was shown to Smith, but the affidavit attesting to service "cannot be located," as Judge Sperrazza acknowledged in her ruling (.pdf). No matter: She was willing to take the police at their word. Of course.

In justifying the use of a court order for a DNA test -- a painless but invasive procedure -- Sperrazza relied on a New York State precedent dealing with a court-ordered blood sample. "As the application seeks an intrusion in the suspect's body," Sperrazza wrote, "it may not be ex parte but must beupon notice and give the suspect an opportunity to oppose the request."

Once again: The second court order demanding a DNA sample, the one Smith refused, was issued ex parte. Sperrazza glides over that complication by insisting that Smith had consented to the first order without raising objections, an argument that is a pretty decent specimen of the ignoratio elenchi fallacy.

Sperrazza takes note of Smith's argument that the use of the Taser was "in the nature of torture and cannot be condoned." This prompts the following judicial shoulder-shrug: "[T]he Court does not find that the infliction of pain in a reasonable manner, to induce compliance, is necessarily unconstitutional. "

This is to say that torture (Sperrazza did not reject the description) via Taser can be entirely "constitutional" and "reasonable" as a means of breaking the resistance of a suspect.

Judge Sperazza's ruling -- which is almost certain to be appealed -- is the domestic offspring of the sophistries begotten by Jay Bybee and John Yoo during their time as apparatchiks in the Bush Regime's Office of Legal Counsel.

When the Dear Leader (and his dead-eyed GrandVizier, Cheney the Malignant) demanded a legal rationale for torture, Bybee -- a pious Mormon Sunday School teacher with the mien of Ned Flanders -- provided the general outline and let Yoo run wild as a detail worker.

That's how we ended up with a standard of CIA interrogation in which duress could be applied in any way that didn't involve "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or death." That's how Yoo could go on to suggest that the President could order the sexual torture of children as a means of forcing the parents to cooperate. It would be interesting to see how Bybee, who now sits on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, would react to a case involving the "enhanced interrogation" of a criminal suspect.

"Criminal means, once tolerated, are soon preferred," warned Edmund Burke. Don't be surprised if, ere long, the interrogation rooms in American police departments mutate into CIA-style "black sites" of the sort now familiar to more than a few traumatized innocent foreigners.

UPDATE, June 10: The Met and Water Torture

A major "anti-corruption" probe of London's Metropolitan Police includes allegations that police officers used water torture -- colloquially known as "waterboarding" -- against suspects in narcotics investigations, according to Sean O'Neill of the Times of London. The probe is also investigating claims that police fabricated evidence and stole property from suspects -- forms of official corruption quite common in the American version of the murderous fraud called the "war on drugs."

Although the allegations of corruption and torture are being probed by Scotland Yard with the "utmost seriousness," one official close to the inquiry insists that the method of water torture used was less sophisticated than the CIA's preferred approach: It was less a matter of strapping someone to a table and using calibrated amounts of controlled drowning than "shoving their heads in a bowl of water."

I've said it before: Sometimes it's a pity that only one ocean separates the UK from the U.S. The relative ease of correspondence between the United State and its Mother Regime allows for pernicious cross-pollination of all kinds of dangerous and stupid ideas. We tend to be perhaps six to eight months behind Great Britain in our descent into the Total State. And here we see how bad ideas tend to travel east from Washington to London, as well as the reverse.

(My thanks to the anonymous commenter who brought the London water torture scandal to my attention.)

Something to watch for ...

I don't know when, or if, anything will materialize in print, but on Monday I spent more than an hour on the phone with Dan Barry, a columnist for the New York Times. He was interested in getting my views about some matters involving the organization that once employed me. In the event something comes of this, I'll be sure to let you know.

A reminder ...

Monday at 6:00 PM Central time will see the debut of Pro Libertate Radio on the Liberty News Radio Network. LNRN is a small, young start-up with only a handful of stations so far, but the programs are accessible via the Net, both as simulcasts and in the on-line archive. The toll-free call-in number is 1-866-986-6397 (866-986-NEWS). I hope to hear from you!

An utterly gratuitous video extra ...

... it's just that every time I hear "Niagara Falls," it tears me apart:



On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!