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Civil Rights / Liberties


Happy Holidays from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Despite campaign promises of increased transparency and accountability, the Obama administration has continued its predecessor's assaults on civil liberties and the rule of law. Many counter-terror policies that our country increasingly takes for granted permit the government to routinely invade the privacy of millions of law-abiding Americans, even without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and with grave consequences for our constitutional culture. And torture remains not only unpunished, but at risk of repetition since our nation has undermined the legal precedents deterring it here and around the world.

We at BORDC are disappointed by the striking absence of support for the rule of law in Washington. But together, we can change our country's course and bring America back to its founding principles.

The Spying Industrial Complex

The Spying Industrial Complex
By emptywheel | FireDogLake

Chris Soghoian, whose post on 8 million times the government has used GPS tracking on Sprint’s customers in the last year, has apparently flushed out the spying policies of many of the nation’s telecoms. Cryptome has them posted – though (as Mary points out) Yahoo has freaked out and initiated take-down proceedings.

Yahoo isn’t happy that a detailed menu of the spying services it provides law enforcement agencies has leaked onto the web.

Shortly after Threat Level reported this week that Yahoo had blocked the FOIA release of its law enforcement and intelligence price list, someone provided a copy of the company’s spying guide to the whistleblower site Cryptome.

The 17-page guide describes Yahoo’s data retention policies and the surveillance capabilities it can provide law enforcement, with a pricing list for these services. Cryptome also published lawful data-interception guides for Cox Communications, SBC, Cingular, Nextel, GTE and other telecoms and service providers. Read more.

Peace Grannies Tell Toys R Us: "War Toys 'R' Not US!!!"

PEACE GRANNIES TELL TOYS "R" US: "WAR TOYS 'R' NOT US!!!"
By Joan Wile

Shoppers in the Times Square Toys "R" Us flagship store were startled on Friday, December 5, when they looked up at the giant ferris wheel in the middle of the store and saw fifteen people riding it while unfurling bright yellow banners inscripted with the words "NO MORE WAR TOYS" and "WAR IS NOT A GAME!" As the wheel slowly revolved around, the mischief makers sang over and over John Lennon's famous refrain, "All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance."

This caper was how the legendary Granny Peace Brigade launched their latest anti-war campaign, entitled "NO MORE WAR TOYS, NO MORE WARS." Fed up with the proliferation of obscenely violent war toys, the grannies created this latest protest action in an effort to get the poisonous stuff off the shelves, thereby, hopefully, decreasing the militarization of our youth.

The grandmothers think their campaign is particularly timely coming on the heels, as it did, of the President's disappointing announcement of more troops being sent to Afghanistan. "Violence begets violence," said Barbara Walker, a founding member of the Brigade. "These awful toys indoctrinate our young with the concept that war is the preferred tactic to conduct our foreign policy. Such a mind set emboldens our leaders to supplant peaceful negotiation and diplomacy with bombs and bloodshed. We are trying to eradicate the cancer at its core." Click "Read more" for larger pictures.

Sprint’s 50 Million Customers Have Been Geo-Tracked 8 Million Times–in the Last Year

Sprint’s 50 Million Customers Have Been Geo-Tracked 8 Million Times–in the Last Year
By Emptywheel | FireDogLake

Chris Soghoian caught a remarkable admission at a surveillance conference in October. Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance revealed that law enforcement has used Sprint’s geotracking function 8 million times in the thirteen months prior to his comment.

Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers.

The evidence documenting this surveillance program comes in the form of an audio recording of Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance, who described it during a panel discussion at a wiretapping and interception industry conference, held in Washington DC in October of 2009.

[snip]

[M]y major concern is the volume of requests. We have a lot of things that are automated but that’s just scratching the surface. One of the things, like with our GPS tool. We turned it on the web interface for law enforcement about one year ago last month, and we just passed 8 million requests. So there is no way on earth my team could have handled 8 million requests from law enforcement, just for GPS alone. So the tool has just really caught on fire with law enforcement. They also love that it is extremely inexpensive to operate and easy, so, just the sheer volume of requests they anticipate us automating other features, and I just don’t know how we’ll handle the millions and millions of requests that are going to come in.

Now, as he documents in extensive detail, using cell phone location to get the geolocation of someone is just one of a number of uses of legal surveillance techniques that is eluding public reporting. Read more.

Right Wing Caricature Gets Physical at Cindy Sheehan Rally

"The Killing is Right and Proper"
By Cindy Sheehan | Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox

On Saturday, Bay Area CODEPINK and I, started our caravan to Creech AFB in Nevada with a morning peace rally at Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA.

After we got there we were informed that we had to move off the base and were shown by MPs where we could protest. As good warriors for free speech and peace, we groused about it and we were moving forward to where we were supposed to go, when a very angry older man pulled up and started yelling at us to: "Don't go, I want to counter protest you." I told him, first of all, he shouldn't be drinking so early in the morning, and secondly not to worry, that we were going anywhere, we were just moving about 100 yards away.

We decided to just stop and take a picture by the Travis AFB sign and then we were going to get back in our cars to caravan down to Lemoore NAS because it was extremely windy and we were running a little late anyway.

I was giving a little speech denouncing the drone-bombing program and the upcoming 50 percent troop escalation to Afghanistan, when the angry old man, now dressed in a military uniform, charged around the corner and got right into my bullhorn-I told him to get out of my face and he very violently slaps the bullhorn away from me.

Everything happened so quickly: I was so shocked that I was actually physically assaulted that I just turned away from him and that's when my colleague, Suzanne immediately jumped to my aid and got between the man and me. He swore profusely and pushed her-and then a mini-melee ensued. The numerous MPs and POs that were there finally intervened after I asked them to stop the man from assaulting my friends. I touched no one even though I was within my rights to defend myself. The video clearly shows that the aggressor and the person who brought unreasoning anger and violence to the rally was Sgt. Phil Ward. Read more.

Anti-War Protests Tuesday & Wednesday as President Obama Announces More Troops to Afghanistan Occupation

Anti-War Protests Tuesday & Wednesday as President Obama Announces More Troops to Afghanistan Occupation

Anticipating President Obama’s announcement December 1, 2009, of a plan to “win” Bush’s war in Afghanistan and to “finish the job,” anti-war groups are organizing protests around the US against a plan to send more troops and naming this “Obama’s war.”

Protesters from the tri-state area will march to the main gate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where the President will speak at 8:00 pm Tuesday. A rally starts at 5:30 pm at the intersection of Main Street (Route 218) and West Point Highway, just south of the Academy’s Thayer Gate. Protesters will also gather at the White House beginning at 5:00 pm Tuesday staying into the evening.

On Wednesday, December 2, at federal buildings and major intersections in dozens of cities – organized by a coalition of organizations representing veterans, military families, religious groups and anti-war activists – organizers expect an outpouring based on recent polls showing more than 50% opposition to further escalation in Afghanistan.

World Can’t Wait Director Debra Sweet said today, ”The richest country with the most powerful highly militarized empire is destroying, not helping, one of the world’s poorest countries. The only resolution in the interests of the people of Afghanistan and the world, including the people living in the United States, is for the United States to remove its combat and support troops and its contractors from Afghanistan and to end the occupation of Iraq.”

Protests are scheduled at 40 cities including Allentown, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Columbus OH, Detroit, Eugene OR, Greensboro, Harrisburg, Hartford, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Madison WI; Miami, New Haven, New Paltz, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland ME, Portsmouth NH, Richmond, San Francisco, Seattle, Teaneck NJ. Complete list.

“Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan is with a Code Pink delegation protesting at Creech Air Force Base which controls the un-manned drones targeted on Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to human rights groups, hundreds of civilians have been killed by the drones in more than 40 strikes, since Barack Obama took office.

National organizers include Veterans for Peace; Iraq Veterans Against the War; Military Families Speak Out; Code Pink; International ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, and many local groups who have opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for years.

###

Contact: Elaine Brower 917.520.0767 / 866.973.4463

The World Can’t Wait

The Dangers of Revolutionary Right-Wing Rhetoric

The dangers of revolutionary right-wing rhetoric
When Glenn Beck and others talk about an antigovernment revolution, we should recall the 1898 Wilmington race riot.
By Walter Rodgers | CSM

Few places have deeper scars from violent invective and verbal incitement than this North Carolina city where people still speak in whispers, embarrassed by the events of Nov. 10, 1898. Wilmington is tragic testament to the fact that social progress is not inevitable and that, left unchallenged, hateful speech and words frequently morph into violence.

Today, talk of an antigovernment revolution has gone mainstream in America. One federal law-enforcement agency has discovered 50 new militia groups, including one made up of past and current police officers and soldiers. While in office, President Bush was the target of roughly 3,000 death threats a year. President Obama is on pace to quintuple that. In this environment, Americans might well reflect on Wilmington's experience 111 years ago.

In 1898, this city was years ahead of the rest of the American South, building an inclusive, interracial political culture. It had a burgeoning black middle class. A new era of hope dawned in North Carolina.

But the losers in the 1896 elections, the white Democrats, sulked on the margins, threatened by political irrelevance. Their sense of entitlement to governance had just been rejected by white progressives and black voters. "Take back the state," became their battle cry.

And they did just that. On Nov. 9, some Wilmington whites issued a White Declaration of Independence, proclaiming "that we will no longer be ruled ... by men of African origin." Read more.

Barack Obama: Manchurian Candidate Version 2.0

By Dave Lindorff

I once wrote an article about former President George W. Bush saying that he was a perfect Manchurian candidate. That is, if his missing year when he was supposed to have been flying fighter jets with the Texas Air National Guard was actually spent in the former Soviet Union being reprogrammed as a covert KGB agent whose job it was to go back to America, win election to the White House, and proceed to destroy the US, he couldn’t have done a better job than he actually did.

Now I wonder whether President Obama might not be a perfect Manchurian Candidate of the Republican Party, or perhaps of some nefarious foreign entity—perhaps the China or the always-enigmatic Al Qaeda. How else to explain policies that have wreaked such destruction on the Democratic Party in Washington and on the nation at large.

Political Prisoner Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole

Political Prisoner Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole
By Stephen Lendman

On November 18, Jalil Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom) was refused parole a day after his November 17 hearing. The board called his record exemplary, but still denied him. Muntaqim thanked everyone who wrote letters of support and said he'll appeal the decision. Failing that, his next scheduled hearing is in June 2010. His earlier 2002, 2004 and 2006 hearings were also unsuccessful.

In a November 19 letter to supporters, he wrote as follows:

"The parole board ignored the overwhelming support from the community for my release, and denied me parole. I have come to the conclusion after this, my fourth parole appearance....that the parole system is not a fair and impartial decision making body. It is a political institution with a law enforcement agenda....incapable of being fair and impartial in cases where a police officer's death is involved....The judiciary generally supports the law enforcement agenda of the parole board."

To rectify this "double standard," he urged his supporters to:

  • "organize a coalition of progressive folks willing and able to concentrate on this issue;"
  • get the "religious/faith based community" on board;
  • challenge elected officials "for their refusal and failure to intervene....;" and
  • New York's "Governor Patterson must be told his choice of parole chairman and commissioners must reflect the desires of the community."

Short of these actions, nothing will reverse the "institutional repression and racism endemic (in) the NYS prison and parole system." Muntaqim is its longest-punished example, an innocent man kept imprisoned since 1971.

The freejalil.com web site calls him a "political prisoner & prisoner of war." Some history and background follows.

CAIR to Release Report on U.S. Muslim Civil Rights

CAIR to Release Report on U.S. Muslim Civil Rights | Press Release

On Thursday, December 3, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference in the nation’s capital to release its 14th annual report, titled “Seeking Full Inclusion,” on the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States.

WHAT: CAIR to Release Annual Report on Status of American Muslim Civil Rights
WHEN: Thursday, December 3, 10 a.m. (Eastern)
WHERE: CAIR’s Capitol Hill Headquarters, 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C.
CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair.com

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization’s report - the only annual study of its kind – will offer a summary of incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment reported to CAIR during the 2008 calendar year.

CAIR’s new report will also examine the use of Islamophobic rhetoric in the 2008 presidential election and highlight a number of issues of concern to the American Muslim community, including watch lists, surveillance of mosques and new FBI guidelines that allow religious and ethnic profiling.

The report will offer recommendations for action by the Obama administration, Congress and American Muslim institutions.

United States Backs Illegal Elections in Honduras, Betraying Process to Restore Constitutional Order

United States Backs Illegal Elections in Honduras, Betraying Process to Restore Constitutional Order
By Tom Loudon | Truthout | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

After five months of political chaos in Honduras, repeated attempts to reach a negotiated agreement for restoration of constitutional order have failed due to the defiant recalcitrance of the Roberto Micheletti coup regime and the complicity of the State Department. Given this impasse and the deepening human rights crisis, it is widely recognized that conditions for holding free, fair and transparent elections on November 29, just days from now, do not exist.

Recognizing this dilemma, in late October the United States rushed a high-level State Department delegation to Honduras, bringing Micheletti back to the table and brokering the October 30 "National Reconciliation Agreement" requiring the reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya by November 5. However, in a move paralleling the behavior of the Micheletti regime, a few days later, State Department officials reversed their position, stating that the elections would be recognized by the United States with or without restitution of President Zelaya, effectively breaking the accord. Read more.

Lynne Stewart: Casualty of the ‘War on Terror

Lynne Stewart: Casualty of the ‘War on Terror’
By Marjorie Cohn | Jurist

Koeltl concluded that the terrorism enhancement, “while correct under the guidelines, would result in an unreasonable result.” He cited “the somewhat atypical nature of Stewart’s case” and “the lack of evidence that any victim was harmed as a result of the charged offense.” The result of the terrorism enhancement, according to Koeltl, was “dramatically unreasonable in [her] case” because it “overstate[d] the seriousness of [her] past conduct and the likelihood that [she would] repeat the offense.”

Stewart, Koeltl concluded, “has no criminal history and yet is placed in the highest criminal history category [under the terrorism enhancement] equal to that of repeat felony offenders for the most serious offenses including murder and drug trafficking.” Koeltl found that Stewart’s opportunity to repeat “the crimes to which she had been convicted will be nil” because she “will lose her license to practice law” [“itself a punishment”] and “will be forever separated from any contact with Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.”

Koeltl viewed Stewart’s personal characteristics as “extraordinary” and determined that they “argue[d] strongly in favor of a substantial downward variance” from the guidelines. He described her as a dedicated public servant who had, throughout her career, “represented the poor, the disadvantaged and the unpopular, often as a Court-appointed attorney,” thereby providing a “service not only to her clients but to the nation.”

In a decision that reflects the post-911 terrorism hysteria, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed prominent civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart’s convictions and remanded her case to district court Judge John G. Koeltl to reconsider her sentence. The appellate panel directed Koeltl to remand Stewart to custody and the 70-year-old woman is now in prison.

Stewart was convicted of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to the conspiracy to murder persons in a foreign country (18 U.S.C. sec. 2339A and 18 U.S.C. sec. 2), conspiring to provide and conceal such support (18 U.S.C. sec. 371), and knowingly and willfully making false statements (18 U.S.C. sec. 1001). The majority opinion states that Stewart was convicted “principally with respect to [her] violations of those measures by which [she] had agreed to abide,” namely, Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). Read more.

Targeting Muslim Charities in America

Targeting Muslim Charities in America
By Stephen Lendman

In a December 2008 article, this writer explained that the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) was the largest American Muslim charity until the Bush administration bogusly declared it an enemy of the state and shut it down.

On December 4, 2001, the Treasury Department declared HLF a terrorist group, froze its assets, and falsely claimed they were being used to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas. HLF's appeal was denied.

It provided vital relief to Palestinian refugees in Occupied Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan as well as aid for the needy in Bosnia, Albania, Chechnya, Turkey, America, and elsewhere.

Its activities included:

  • financial aid to needy and impoverished families;
  • a sponsorship program for orphaned children;
  • numerous social services;
  • educational ones;
  • medical and other emergency work; and
  • community development, including helping Palestinians rebuild homes that Israel maliciously destroyed.

HLF described its work as follows. "We gave:

  • books, not bombs;
  • bread, not bullets;
  • smiles, not scars;
  • toys, not tanks;
  • liberty, not poverty;
  • hope, not despair;
  • love, not hate; (and)
  • life, not death.

Slate Blogger Urges KSM's Defense Lawyers Not to Try, Pre-Blames Them for Expected Injustices of Court Decisions

This is a curious article in that it blames defense lawyers who might argue that evidence based on torture is inadmissable or 7 years is not a speedy trial, etc., for the unjust responses expected from the courts.

The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society

The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society
By David DeGraw | The Public Record

Report Contents:
I: U.S. Societal Breakdown
II: Environmental Crisis
III: The Obama Myth
IV: Economic Coup – Theft of Trillions
V: National Emergency

Download Full Report in PDF format

The economic elite have launched an attack on the U.S. public and society is unraveling at an increased rate.

I: U.S. Societal Breakdown
 We are in a NATIONAL EMERGENCYYou may have missed it in the mainstream news media, but statistical societal indicators are reading red across the board. Before exposing the root causes of this breakdown, let’s look at some vital statistics and facts:
* The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The US already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top one percent, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the US population has grown to a record high.
* As the stock market went over the 10,000 mark and just surged to a 13-month high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefit the most from the government bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $30 billion in annual bonuses this year, “up 60 percent from last year.” Bloomberg reported: “Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, they are also benefiting by only paying 1% in taxes.

* The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth.”
As the looting is occurring at the top, the US middle class is just beginning to collapse.
* Workers between the age of 55 – 60, who have worked for 20 – 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.

Lynne Stewart: Heroic Human Rights Lawyer Jailed

Lynne Stewart: Heroic Human Rights Lawyer Jailed
By Stephen Lendman

On November 20, New York Times writer Colin Moynihan broke the news headlining:

"Radical Lawyer Convicted of Aiding Terrorist Is Jailed," then saying:

"Defiant to the end as she embraced supporters outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, Lynne F. Stewart, the radical lawyer known for defending unpopular clients, surrendered on Thursday to begin serving her 28-month sentence for assisting terrorism."

Fact check:

Stewart did what all attorneys should, but few, in fact, do - observe the American Bar Association's Model Rules saying all lawyers are obligated to:

"devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel."

Also to practice law ethically, morally and responsibly to assure everyone is afforded due process and judicial fairness in American courts. Sadly and disturbingly, Stewart was denied what she did for others heroically, unselfishly, and proudly. More on that below.

Stewart (prison number 53504-054) is now jailed at:

Brian Terrell Goes To Court

Joy First writes:

Below is a brief filed with the Federal Court in Madison, WI by our good friend Brian Terrell. Brian was arrested with a group of activists at an action at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin on August 10, 2008. We went to court, were found guilty, and ordered to pay a fine. Brian has not paid the fine and so the prosecutor filed a motion with the court asking for 30 days in jail for Brian and others who did not pay the fine. This brief is Brian’s response to the court.

We returned to Fort McCoy this past August 2009 and were arrested again. Following this arrest, four of us were illegally transported by military personnel to the Dane County jail in Madison and held overnight. We are pursuing this as a violation of Posse Comitatus. We have not been arraigned or heard anything from the court regarding our arrest in August 2009.

The statement from Brian is powerful and moving and inspires me to continue my work for peace and justice. Please share this with others.

Peace,

Joy

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

v.
Case No. 08-po-1008-slc

BRIAN TERRELL

Defendant

_________________________________________________________________________________

OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR RE-SENTENCING

On November 5, 2008, the United States of America, through Acting United States Attorney Stephen P. Sinnott, moved the court for an order re-sentencing me to a 30-day term of imprisonment, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3614. The grounds offered by the United States in support of its motion are clearly insufficient and the court is requested to deny the motion. My response to each of the grounds as listed by the United States, are as follows:

CCR Files Opening Brief in First Supreme Court Case to Challenge Patriot Act

CCR Files Opening Brief in First Supreme Court Case to Challenge Patriot Act | Press Release
Obama Administration Defending Law that Makes Speech Advocating Human Rights a Terrorist Crime

November 17 - Yesterday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the first brief in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the first case to challenge a portion of the Patriot Act before the Supreme Court. The case, originally brought in 1998 on behalf of a human rights group, a retired federal administrative judge, a doctor, and several nonprofit groups, challenges the constitutionality of the law that makes it a crime to provide "material support" to groups the administration has designated as "terrorist." In particular, the plaintiffs charge that the law goes too far in making speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity a crime. The lower courts have unanimously declared several provisions of the law - including one added by the Patriot Act - unconstitutionally vague because they encompass speech and force citizens to guess as to their meaning.

The case challenges those aspects of the "material support" statute that criminalize pure speech - specifically the prohibitions on providing "training," "personnel," "expert advice or assistance," and "service." Under the law, any speech that falls within these terms - no matter how peaceable and nonviolent - is a crime if communicated to, for, or with the collaboration of any organization placed on a list of "foreign terrorist organizations" maintained by the State Department. Convictions can result in sentences of fifteen years to life. According to the government, the statute requires no showing that the donor intended to further any act of terrorism or violence.

Said CCR Cooperating Attorney David Cole, "This statute is so sweeping that it treats human rights advocates as criminal terrorists, and threatens them with 15 years in prison for advocating nonviolent means to resolve disputes. In our view, the First Amendment does not permit the government to make advocating human rights or other lawful, peaceable activity a crime simply because it is done for the benefit of, or in conjunction with, a group the Secretary of State has blacklisted."

KSM and MSM

By David Swanson

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the corporate "mainstream" media make quite a pair. We're hearing a very "balanced" debate over whether KSM should be tried in New York City, and whether the most insane objections to that proposal are really insane or not. But what are we not hearing?

We're not hearing that trying criminals for the crime of 9-11 ought to have been what we did years ago, rather than waging wars in response to a crime. We're not discussing the possibility that had alleged 9-11 criminals been tried years ago rather than being imprisoned and tortured together with hundreds of innocents depicted as subhuman monsters, the "war on terror" might have been replaced with simply the wars on Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis. What effect might that have had on Americans' willingness to surrender their Bill of Rights? We aren't hearing about that.

Why the Stupak Amendment to the Healthcare Reform Bill Is Unconstitutional

Why the Stupak Amendment to the Healthcare Reform Bill Is Unconstitutional
By Marci A. Hamilton | Find Law

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops registered a major victory this week, when it succeeded in pressuring members of the House to include in the healthcare reform bill the so-called "Stupak Amendment." The Amendment is a provision that carves out new territory for those organizations and persons who oppose abortion -- virtually all of whom are religiously-motivated. It does so by forbidding federal funds from being applied to abortions in any instance, including when those funds are being used to subsidize the purchase by low- or middle-income individuals of private insurance on the open market. Under the Stupak Amendment, federal funds cannot be used to pay for "any part" of an insurance plan that would fund abortions.

Before the Stupak Amendment was added, the bill had already included a compromise provision that grandfathered in the approach taken by a prior federal law that sharply restricts funding for abortions. That law, known as the Hyde Amendment, has forbidden federal spending by Medicaid on non-therapeutic abortions since 1976. There have been times in recent history when no abortions could be federally-funded, but at this point a few circumstances permit federal funding, including a pregnancy deriving from incest or rape, or a threat to the life of the pregnant woman. Despite its burden on women's rights, the Hyde Amendment has been upheld in a series of Supreme Court cases, including Maher v. Roe.

The Health Care Reform Act in the House had included a compromise provision that recognized the Hyde Amendment principle, but did not extend the prohibition to the funding of abortions through private insurance plans. Read more.

Federal Prosecutors Oppose Former Gov. Don Siegelman's Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court

Federal prosecutors oppose former Gov. Don Siegelman's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court
By Mary Orndorff | The Birmingham News

The U.S. Supreme Court does not need to hear the appeal of former Gov. Don Siegelman because prosecutors adequately proved at trial that he exchanged an official act for a political donation, according to written arguments filed late Friday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Siegelman and co-defendant HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy in August asked the justices to take up their case because they believe it raises broader legal questions about how much evidence is needed to prove bribery.

They argue that the donations Scrushy made to Siegelman's lottery fund and Siegelman's subsequent appointment of Scrushy to a state health board were normal political transactions, not criminal. And they contend that government prosecutors never proved there was an explicit agreement to exchange the appointment for the $500,000 in donations.

But the solicitor general of the U.S., responding Friday on behalf of the prosecution team, said case law allows the jurors to infer, even from circumstantial evidence, that there was an agreement to exchange the money for the official action. Read more.

Will You PAY $1.12 for HEALTHCARE?

Images are copylefted and formatted to fit on a single sheet of letter sized postcard stock with no margins. Postage is only 28¢ each.

Universal, Single Payer Postcards-Front
Universal, Single Payer Postcards-Back

Last July's Bush Protest Still in the News and Focus of Debate on Rudeness and Free Speech

Here's a letter I just sent to my local newspaper:

Letter to the Editor:

As an organizer of the protest of former President Bush at Monticello last July, I was sorry to miss Sunday's panel on free speech and rudeness at PVCC but appreciated your Monday report. I also appreciated the panelists' comments you reported to the effect that TV pundits and producers encourage rudeness. If many people's views were not shut out of major communications outlets, they'd probably be less likely to force them in by shouting.

I was sorry to see, at least in your report of Sunday's panel, no indication that the panelists distinguished any types or shades of rudeness, as opposed to lumping it all together. Here are three types worth thinking about:
1) Inciting hatred and violence. This could include demonization, encouraging assaults, staging mock executions, racism or other bigotry, or promoting wars on the basis of lies.

President Obama: Don't Lecture China on Censorship

By Dave Lindorff

President Obama, in his visit to China, held a “town meeting” with Chinese students in which he praised openness and lectured them on the value of freedom of information, saying that he is a “supporter of non-censorship” and that open access to information was a “source of strength.”

And yet America is hardly free of censorship. Heck, the president himself has gone to court to prevent the release of photographs of US troops torturing captives in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo. Talk about censorship! But it goes way beyond just such crude, totalitarian style control over information.

Secretary Of Defense Says Americans Should Not See Torture Photos

Secretary Of Defense Says Americans Should Not See Torture Photos | Press Release
ACLU Says Actions Stifle Transparency and Accountability | ACLU

WASHINGTON – In a brief filed late Friday night, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates invoked his authority to block the release of photos depicting the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. The photos are the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking their release. Secretary Gates was granted the authority to exempt certain images from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as part of a new law signed by President Obama last month.

“We are disappointed that Secretary Gates has invoked new legislation to keep the torture photos secret,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “These photos are an important part of the historical record and they are crucial to the ongoing debate about accountability. In withholding the photos, Secretary Gates has cited national security concerns, but no democracy has ever been made stronger by suppressing information about its own misconduct."

Speaking Events

David Swanson at St. Michael’s College, Colchester, VT, October 5, 2016.

David Swanson in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 22, 2016.

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