Civil Rights

Jim Downey's picture

Just in time for the holidays.

Just in time for the holidays, comes this friendly bit of advice from your Big Brother:

As the busy holiday travel season approaches, TSA would like to help you get through the security checkpoint quickly and have a safe flight to your destination. Our Transportation Security Officers will be working around the clock to provide an efficient security process. We're asking you to become an active partner in your security experience by knowing the rules and carefully packing your carry-on bags.

Pack smart to get through faster. Keep luggage organized by layering items; this will increase visibility for the security officers. When approaching the checkpoint, be prepared.

Yes, be prepared. I recommend the little packets of KY Jelly, or the 'personal lubricant' of your choice, in order to comply with security regulations and reduce pain.

*Sheesh*

Jim Downey's picture

Do you wanna know?

Do you wanna know just how valued democracy is on the far Right? Here's a clue:

If Republicans end up with a divided convention between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, I say we pick Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf has declared emergency rule in Pakistan, shut down the media and sent Supreme Court justices home. What's not to like about a guy who orders policemen to beat up lawyers? I bet he has a good plan on illegal immigration, too.

Need a bit more?

You wouldn't know it to read the headlines, but Musharraf has not staged a military coup. In fact, he was re-elected -- in a landslide -- just weeks ago under Pakistan's own parliamentary system.

But the Pakistani Supreme Court, like our own Supreme Court, believes it is above the president and refused to acknowledge Musharraf's election on the grounds that he is disqualified because he is still wearing a military uniform. That's when Musharraf sent them home.

Jim Downey's picture

Privacy? You don't need no steenkin' privacy!

Over the weekend, news came out of yet another "Trust us, we're the government" debacle, this time in the form of the principal deputy director of national intelligence saying that Americans have to give up on the idea that they have any expectation of privacy. Rather, he said, we should simply trust the government to properly safeguard the communications and financial information that they gather about us. No, I am not making this up. From the NYT:

“Our job now is to engage in a productive debate, which focuses on privacy as a component of appropriate levels of security and public safety,” Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, told attendees of the Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s symposium in Dallas.

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Jim Downey's picture

"Massively unconstitutional."

If you haven't really been following the latest on the Telecom Immunity/Domestic Spying efforts by the Bush Administration, or even if you just were busy yesterday, you might want to check out what former AT&T technician and wiretapping whistle-blower Mark Klein has had to say on the matter. In particular, Senator Dodd has posted a 2 minute YouTube summary from Klein that'll give some idea of the scope of the surveillance. And in a discussion on NPR's All Things Considered yesterday, Klein goes into some detail about why he claims that AT&T was basically spying on each and every one of us who uses the internet to surf, post, or send email...before 9/11. It was, as he says in the YouTube summation, "Massively Unconstitutional".

Jim Downey's picture

Please, someone tell me this is a joke.

Seriously - this is like something out of a comedy sketch:

FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists Here

Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.

Here's an even better idea for the FBI/NSA/Omega Sector: just plant RFID tags in the falafel mix. Then they can trace exactly who buys it, follow them around after they've consumed it, and even know what bathroom facilities they like to use. Man, you could set up monitoring equipment to record their bowel movements!

Genius!

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Think ours would do the same?

So, you've probably heard about the situation in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN; and NEW DELHI - Two days after President Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan's stuttering transition to democracy by declaring a state of emergency and dismissing most of its Supreme Court, a familiar pattern has set in.

Lawyers who took to the streets were beaten and arrested by the hundreds. Meanwhile, the country's fractured political establishment waits to see what will happen next. It is a similar dynamic to the one that emerged eight months ago, when Mr. Musharraf sought to sack an independent-minded Supreme Court chief justice for his willingness to defy the government.

Now, let's take a look at another passage in that news article:

Brent Rasmussen's picture

The Constitution Of The United States Of Betty

Betty Dowdell is a Christian apologist who lives out here in my neck of the woods. She's the author of "How to be a Christian Without Being Annoying", and is touted as a home-spun apologist who speaks in plain words for the average Christian. She claims that most Christians don't even know what the word "apologist" means, so, basically, she dumbs it down for them into easily-digested chunks.

How sweet.

This doesn't make her any less annoying, regardless of what her book is titled. She repeats so many of the same, old, tired arguments that it make me tired to think about even starting to address them all. Again. However, one article she wrote stood so far out there with the astonishing assertion below that I couldn't let it go - I had to address it. It's just, well, a bald-faced lie. I mean, most of the time apologists leave themselves some sort of "out" so that they can later claim that they didn't really mean what they said, and that us nasty church-state separation supporters are obviously quoting them out of context, or some such.

Please, I strongly encourage you to read her whole article. You'll agree that her statement below definitely means what it says, even in context with the rest of the article. Here, just check it out for yourself:

[Betty Dowdell] ...the Constitution specifically provides for a Christian chaplain for each branch of Congress.

Well then Betty, I guess you won't have any trouble pointing out the specific part of the Constitution that actually says this.

More below the fold...

Jim Downey's picture

They politely declined.

Huh.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three telecommunications companies have declined to tell Congress whether they gave U.S. intelligence agencies access to Americans' phone and computer records without court orders, citing White House objections and national security.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell "formally invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent AT&T from either confirming or denying" any details about intelligence programs, AT&T general counsel Wayne Watts wrote in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Qwest and Verizon also declined to answer, saying the federal government has prohibited them from providing information, discussing or referring to any classified intelligence activities.

So, Congress isn't a part of the 'federal government'?

Jim Downey's picture

Spineless bastards.

And no, this isn't about biology. It's about the idiot democrats who seem poised to cave in yet again to Bush's demands. From today's New York Times:

Democrats Seem Ready to Extend Wiretap Powers

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 — Two months after insisting that they would roll back broad eavesdropping powers won by the Bush administration, Democrats in Congress appear ready to make concessions that could extend some crucial powers given to the National Security Agency.

Administration officials say they are confident they will win approval of the broadened authority that they secured temporarily in August as Congress rushed toward recess. Some Democratic officials concede that they may not come up with enough votes to stop approval.

WTF?!?!?! They are so friggin' afraid that they will be painted as being "soft on terror" that they're perfectly willing to just cut out the 4th Amendment and toss it aside.

Scott Mange's picture

The Abimelech Society

Maybe you're like me. You go to a hotel while on business or vacation and you find another one of those damn Gideon's Bibles. What to do with it?? Well, as a newly minted member of the Abimelech Society, I replace it with a nice novel (usually classical literature) from my local paper back exchange store.

I learned about the Society from this link:

http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/abimelec.htm

The article reads in part -

The Abimelechs are an association of Atheist commercial, business, and professional men and women who have as one of their objects: The removal from circulation of the so-called Word of God or Holy Bible, from hotels, motels, hospitals, school classrooms, university dormitories, penal institutions, and many other places, and by the confiscation of New Testaments from school children, service personnel, and nurses.

Scott Mange's picture

Thank You Bill Murray

No....not that Bill Murray. I mean William Murray, son of Madalyn Murray O'Hair and current chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition.

I had been reading about the life of Madalyn and was amazed at the amount of brutality her family had to endure for their part in removing mandatory prayer from public schools. It ran the gamut from simple assault, to property damage, to segregation, to what may have been an attempted murder.

While reading about this I found myself feeling a great deal of gratitude to them, and especially Bill, for speaking out and standing up for what is right so that I and my children will never be faced with the same circumstances (hopefully).

With this in mind, I decided to write Mr. Murray a thank-you letter

Jim Downey's picture

Fort Riley soldier sues Defense Department over religious freedom

From the AP:

FORT RILEY, Kan. - A soldier who unsuccessfully tried to hold a meeting for atheists and other non-Christians is suing the Defense Department, claiming his right to religious freedom was violated.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., alleges a pattern of practices that discriminate against non-Christians in the military. It was filed Monday, the 220th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. It names Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Maj. Paul Welborne.

According to the filing, Spec. Jeremy Hall, a soldier assigned to Fort Riley's 97th Military Police Battalion, received permission to distribute flyers around his base in Iraq for a meeting of atheists and non-Christians. When he tried to convene the meeting, Hall claims, Welborne stepped in, threatening to file military charges against Hall and block his reenlistment.

Jim Downey's picture

"Just go along."

Many years ago, I read a book which changed how I view the world. It was William Allen's The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town 1922 - 1945. I no longer remember whether I read it for a college class, or just on my own. And I can no longer really tell you many of the details of the book, but there was one overriding lesson I took from it which remains: that most people will go along with changes instituted by authority figures, so long as those changes seem minor and "for the greater good". Because the thing about the Nazi rise to power is that it was enabled by 'good Germans' - the vast population who were not Nazi ideologues, but were unwilling to stand up to incremental infringement of their civil rights because it would be just too much bother.

Jim Downey's picture

Our only hope is to make W President for Life.

OK, you may have already heard about this. But if not, it is my pleasure to introduce yet another right-wing nut who is all for chucking out the Constitution, imposing martial law, and declaring George W. Bush to be President for Life because, see, it's all in the interests of Western Civilization.

And no, I'm not kidding. Here's a taste:

As there appears to be no sensible result of the invasion of Iraq that will be popular with his countrymen other than retreat, President Bush is reviled; he has become another victim of Democracy.

Jim Downey's picture

Conservative Author: 19th Amendment is the Problem

Laurence Auster is a leading far-right conservative author, one of the primary forces behind efforts to severely limit immigration and the "suicidal course of Western Civilization". He has published extensively at FrontPage Magazine, American Thinker, NewsMax, and National Review. His website is called "View From the Right", subtitled "The passing scene and what it's about viewed from the traditionalist politically incorrect Right."

OK, fine. So he's a wingnut conservative with a strong religious belief, who is fixated on Islam, and pretty much defines nativism (his 1990 book The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immmigration and Multiculturalism is considered by the 'mainstream right' as one of their seminal anti-immigration texts ). So what?

So, last month he came out with the following:

RickU's picture

Election position 3 - Drugs

Ah, the drug war. Fuck the drug war. We waste billions of dollars on it to no avail. Legalize, regulate and tax drug production and consumption. People should be able to do what they will with their bodies. Now that that's said, I do believe there are limits. There are drugs that should not be allowed on the market. For example, PCP is a drug which should not be produced and/or distributed on the market. My criteria? Posing a threat to another humans life is my only criteria. PCP can make a person entirely unaware of the consequences of their actions. For a drug to be legal in my book you have to be aware enough to know if what you're doing is having consequences on folks around you and of course yourself. Employers should also be allowed to regulate drug use as a condition of your employment. That's their right. If they don't want you stoned while paving a road...fine. However, it should be limited to (as with alcohol) your functioning at your job. In other words, if you smoke pot on the weekend but don't come to work on Monday stoned...they shouldn't have anything to say.

Freedom of choice is not the only reason to stop the drug war in the USA. The cost of the drug war is disturbing and it's shown little by way of effectiveness. The USA should have learned it's lesson re: Illegal substances after Prohibition but that lesson seems lost on the current round of politicians. There's, of course, another cost outside of enforcement and that's incarceration. Every prisoner in jail for having or distributing drugs is a drain on our tax dollars.

Brent Rasmussen's picture

Baptists For Brownback 2008

Giving Landover Baptist a run for their money! Baptists For Brownback 2008!

[link] Today, in an America filled with adulterers and baby-killers, an even worse sinner casts a shadow over them all—the atheist. Yet atheists are difficult to spot. They hide their sinister cult behind masks of smiles, science and soft, pleasant voices. Your next door neighbor might be an atheist. You just can’t tell.

Imagine if it was simple to identify atheists and their tainted works. Would it not be grand? Think how much easier it would be to protect your children’s eyes, ears and souls from atheists’ influences if their websites, books, movies and yes, even their very clothes, were clearly labeled with a bright scarlet “A”.

Curses! Those godly folks have somehow conspired to place one of those scarlet "A"s on UTI as well! Now if I can only keep UTI from being listed on their Hellbound list... **shakes fist**

Jim Downey's picture

Dust off the crystal ball...

So, in this discussion over on dKos this morning, I made the following comment pertaining to the question of whether or not we face the prospect of some kind of civil disintegration in the US, specifically regarding some kind of violence generated by the far Right:

(My paranoia level is rising...) Because this country is a tinderbox, and once some idiot strikes a match, the whole thing could go up in flames around us.

I'm not saying that we have to give in just because some idiots threaten violence. I am saying that we must work in ways that avoid violence. Because as anyone who understands violence will tell you, even if it is justified, once it happens it will change you forever.

To be honest, I'll be astounded if we make it through the next decade without something disasterous happening in this regard. I hope I'm wrong, and will work to do what I can to avoid it - but I fear I'm right.

Jim Downey's picture

When they kick in your door...update.

Last November, I wrote about the death of 92 year old Kathryn Johnson at the hands of Atlanta police, who kicked in her door in a "no-knock" drug raid. At the time I cited news reports which indicated that Ms. Johnson had wounded three of the officers when they entered her home, thinking that they were criminals.

Well, I was wrong. Ms. Johnson didn't manage to hit any of the officers. In fact, she shot only once, firing a warning shot through her front door as they were trying to break it down. The injuries came from the 39 shots fired from the officers. Yeah, they hit their own people, in the process of killing Ms. Johnson.

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