March 2008 Archives

It may not be quite Jonathan Swift, Ambrose Bierce or Terry Southern (all of whom are probably in the Colorado College library) but this parody flyer of this flyer from that college's Feminist and Gender Studies program is not only "protected" speech but pretty much what lively debate is supposed to be about, right?

Not according to CC's  speech code.

From a Fire press release:

"Two students at Colorado College were found guilty of violating the school's conduct code regarding "violence" after they distributed a satirical flyer mocking a publication of the Feminist and Gender Studies program. As part of their punishment, student Chris Robinson and a second student have been required to hold a campus forum discussing issues brought up by their satirical publication. The students have turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help."

In early 2008, Colorado College's "Feminist and Gender Studies Interns" distributed a flyer called The Monthly Rag  The flyer included a reference to "male castration," an announcement about a lecture on "feminist porn" by a "world-famous prostitute and porn star," an explanation of "packing" (pretending to have a phallus), and a quotation from The Bitch Manifesto.

As a parody of "The Monthly Rag," Robinson and a second student, who wishes to remain nameless, distributed a flyer in February called "The Monthly Bag" under the pseudonym "The Coalition of Some Dudes." The flyer included references to "chainsaw etiquette," the shooting range of a sniper rifle, a quotation regarding a sexual position from the website, and a quotation about "female violence and abuse" of men from the website

Shortly thereafter, Colorado College President Richard F. Celeste sent out a campus-wide email about "The Monthly Bag," stating that "The flyers include threatening and demeaning content, which is categorically unacceptable in this community... Anonymous acts meant to demean and intimidate others are not [welcome]." The e-mail asked the authors of "The Monthly Bag" to come forward. When they did less than an hour later, they were charged with violating the college's values of respect and integrity.

From Chris Robinson, the author's, op-ed about the incident.

The college opens for business at 8 am. By 8:30 am on the day of publication, I observed security forces tearing down our satire. Wow. Who would have the power and zeal to initiate such a crackdown? I'm not sure, but all I can say is the Chinese Communist Party would be proud.

Having offered myself up to "the authorities" immediately after receipt of a mass email of denunciation by the President of our College, I was then informed that we would face charges in the Student Conduct Committee. I'd love to tell you more about that proceeding, but I'm not at liberty to do so. I will tell you this, though: it was deadly serious. It was an open-ended procedure which could have led to any punishment up to expulsion. It was a corrupt and biased proceeding which inspired in me a terror I've not felt for many years, and constituted a cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself, which I suspect was its intent.

I had two options. The first: to act especially contrite and affirm the school's authoritarian response in the hope of leniency. The second: to take a stand on principle. I chose the latter. You may wonder why I would take such a risk. I remember walking around campus during the week before my "trial" and getting long-faced looks of sympathy and concern from acquaintances. Comments like "you're in big trouble" came my way. It became clear that the people who would utter such nonsense had already been beaten into submission by the fascist culture I was up against. This only hardened my resolve.

Why do I use the word "fascism" to describe the culture of politically correct censorship? Because it is just that. In Azar Nafisi's novel, Reading Lolita in Tehran, she tells the story of a reading group she led in post-revolutionary Tehran in which she covertly taught banned western literature to young women. The justification offered by the Ayatollahs for banning these books was that their content hurt the feelings of the good Muslims of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Hyper-sensitivity in service to a purported greater good became the justification for an authoritarian lock-down on speech. It's the same logic every time: the state comes down hard on behalf of "community." Changing the rhetorical justification only masks the tyranny. The effect of this on citizens, in the words of John Adams, is "reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity."

Free Speech-Use it or Lose It

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While our specialty of the house at this blog is pointing out insults and outrages to the letter and spirit of civil liberties by American authorities, just as troubling are examples of cultural institutions founded on the free flow of speech, ideas and information buckling under, whether to governments or other forms of organized would-be censors using intimidation tactics.

Such appears to be the case with the movie Fitna, (an agit-prop style denunciation of Islamic fundamentalism by Dutch politician Geert Wilders)which after being launched online Thursday has been yanked by LiveLeak after death threats,  while YouTube, Google video and other outlets are apparently receiving similar threats though the movie is still up.

Though Wilders'  equation of Islamicism with 1930s European fascism and neo-connish braod brush view of "Islamo-Fascism" strike me as historically simplistic, unfettered distribution of the film in the face of theocratic bullying tactics is a free speech cause worthy of support. I join Rogier Van Bakel at Nobody's Business, who urges bloggers to keep links to the video alive as embedded links in the event they're pulled down elsewhere. 

Strip Search of 8th Grade Girl Challenged

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Savana Redding, who as an 8th grade student was forcibly strip-searched by school authorities for allegedly possessing ibuprofen tablets (which were never found), has taken her legal challenge against the Safford, Arizona school system to a federal appeals court.

ABC News reports:

Savana Redding says she was "confused" and "ashamed" after the officials in Safford, Ariz., suspected her in 2003 of giving other students prescription Ibuprofen pills and ordered her to expose her breasts and pelvic area during a search in the school nurse's office. She denied having any pills, and none were found. Her mother later filed on her behalf a federal lawsuit claiming the search was unreasonable and therefore illegal...

a lawyer for the school district insisted that there were ample grounds for the search.

"When it comes to drugs and weapons," Matthew Wright said, "school districts just can't take the chance of not going forward and being sure."

The case is one of dozens that have recently challenged public schools on where to draw the line between the privacy rights of students and the need to keep drugs and violence out of the classroom. Courts have generally upheld school strip searches only when they were necessary to avoid a severe health or safety threat. But laws banning or strictly limiting such searches exist in seven states: California, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Wednesday's argument was the third round in a legal fight that has been going on since 2004. On March 15, 2005, a U.S. district judge ruled in favor of the school district without a trial. Last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld that ruling by a vote of 2-1. In January, the full court of appeals agreed to review the case, and it heard oral arguments Wednesday. A decision is not expected for at least several months.

The Cincinnati Enquirer gives us the story of a man in Kentucky who paid for twenty bucks worth of stuff in 1990 using a roll of "dimes" which turned out to be pennies, and who is now up on felony charges for that heinous crime with a $1 million bond.

TSA Demands Woman Pull-Off Nipple Rings

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AP reports

A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.

"I wouldn't wish this experience upon anyone," Mandi Hamlin said at a news conference. "My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way."

Hamlin, 37, said she was trying to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration agent after passing through a larger metal detector without problems.

The female TSA agent used a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of Hamlin's chest, the Dallas-area resident said.

Hamlin said she told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The women then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.

Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said.

She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.

"Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her," said Hamlin's attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent Thursday to the director of the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties.

Patriot Act scope creep in Wichita

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In an development entirely unforeseeable by anyone, the ATF used a secret Patriot Act search to look for drug paraphernalia in the home of a gang member in Wichita, Kansas.

The justification: a secret search was necessary to prevent the suspect from escaping. Which is perfectly logical -- give people powerful tools and they'll use them. If only there were an easy way to anticipate this kind of behavior when proposing and debating legislation, something about power, you know, like corrupting or something.

The spokesentity for the US Attorney's office in Kansas says that he "believes this evidence was obtained legally." Well, shyeeeah -- what else is he going to say? Thanks so much for participating, spokesbeing.

I think the defense lawyer, Charles O'Hara, says it best: "I thought that this Patriot Act was something passed to protect us all from these terrorist acts, and it would be used very judiciously." It's always so refreshing to see evidence of American näiveté in this day and age. He probably used to vote Republican, too. Sucker.

Gulag Illinois (and 43 Other States)

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Welcome to the SuperMax. Once exclusively employed as a short-term punishment for particularly violent jailhouse infractions, "supermax" facilities, or "control units," are today designed specifically to hold large numbers of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. An estimated 20,000 prisoners in 44 states live in these modern-day dungeons.

Jessica Pupovac, Alternet reports:

Imagine living in an 8-by-12 prison cell, in solitary confinement, for eight years straight. Your entire world consists of a dank, cinder block room with a narrow window only three inches high, opening up to an outdoor cement cage, cynically dubbed, "the yard." If you're lucky, you spend one hour five days a week in that outdoor cage, where you gaze up through a wire mesh roof and hope for a glimpse of the sun. If you talk back to the guards or act out in any way, you might only venture outside one precious hour per week.

You go eight years without shaking a hand or experiencing any physical human contact. The prison guards bark orders and touch you only while wearing leather gloves, and then it's only to put you in full cuffs and shackles before escorting you to the cold showers, where they watch your every move.

You cannot make phone calls to your friends or family and must "earn" two visits per month, which inevitably take place through a Plexiglass wall. You are kept in full shackles the entire time you visit with your wife and children, and have to strain to hear their voices through speakers that record your every word. With no religious or educational programs to break up the time or elevate your thoughts, it's a daily struggle to keep your mind from unraveling.

Brother Can You Spare a Job?

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Arizona town passes anti-solicitation ordinance criminalizing day laborers looking for work in public spaces.

From the ACLU

"A local Arizona anti-solicitation ordinance targeting day laborers violates the free speech rights of individuals who express their availability to work by standing in public areas, charged the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in a lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. 

The coalition filed the lawsuit against the town of Cave Creek and the town's mayor and deputy mayor on behalf of Hector Lopez, Leopoldo Ibarra and Ismael Ibarra, three longtime day laborers and Arizona residents who in the past successfully solicited employment in Cave Creek by standing in public areas, peaceably indicating to occupants of passing vehicles their availability for temporary employment. Lopez, Ibarra and Ibarra currently wish to make their availability for day labor known but fear that they will be cited or arrested for violating the ordinance."

The ACLU continues:


In September 2007, the Cave Creek Town Council passed an anti-solicitation ordinance that restricts free speech by prohibiting solicitation of employment, business or contributions from the occupants of vehicles when standing on or next to a street or highway - including the sidewalk. The ordinance goes so far as to bar solicitation from occupants in vehicles that are lawfully parked in public areas.

Before the town passed the ordinance, day laborers - who are usually hired by homeowners to perform services like gardening, moving, light construction, housework and painting - solicited work in public areas.

While the town was apparently motivated by a desire to target illegal immigration, the ordinance applies to everyone in Cave Creek, regardless of their nationality or immigration status.  The ordinance is so overbroad that it also applies to Salvation Army bell ringers asking for holiday contributions and high school cheerleaders advertising a car wash on a sidewalk or street. 

From the Serve and Entrap Dept.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports

Prosecutors are moving ahead with a case against one of two 93-year-old men picked up during undercover prostitution stings.

In the case of Frank Milio, prosecutors have issued subpoenas and plan to take him to trial in April.

Milio, according to police records, tried to pay $20 in November to an undercover officer on 14th Street West.

Milio recently told the Herald-Tribune he was only flirting with the woman.

"I haven't had that in years," he said. "Ninety-three is kind of old."

Carlos Underhill, 93, will not be charged, although he does not deny stopping to chat with the "good-looking girl" who made eyes at him and turned out to be an undercover officer.

Why rhetoric is important, and why dragging America's reputation through the mud is Mr. Bush's greatest crime - In the Times Online today, we're told that "[f]ar from heeding international calls for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, China has accused Tibet's exiled god-king of colluding with Muslim terrorists to destabilise the country before the Olympic Games."

Doesn't that sound familiar? At at the same time, doesn't it sound wildly ludicrous? Accusing the Dalai Lama of colluding with Muslim terrorists to destabilize China to make them look bad for the Olympics?

I swear, it's like Cheney wrote it himself.

Hey, good job, America! You've made it acceptable to fling baldfaced lies about in public! China knows nobody's going to call them on it. Who's going to? America? Then we'll all have a belly laugh, no doubt.

  Broward County public school students soon may be banned from bringing energy drinks on campus.

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports

"Caffeine is now recognized as a drug, and parents and school boards are becoming more concerned with the excessive use of this drug by consumption of energy drinks."

The Penal Colony Revisited

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Indefinite detention  against one's will without charge, trial or legal recourse. Assets seized  and managed by a state court. Loss of basic citizenship rights like the right to vote. Something out of Kafka, or Solzhenitsyn? Or Guantanamo? No, life in an American nursing home for an elderly man falsely (and anonymously) called mentally incompetent and declared in state guardianship by a judge.

Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis of the Columbus Ohio Free Press report:

Norman Baker is an American hero who has been detained against his will for more than three years.

His "crime": owning too much property.

His sentence: a court-appointed guardianship on the brink of costing him everything he spent his life building.

His rights in this case: virtually none, significantly less in many ways than an actual law-breaking criminal.

His future if this continues: long-term de facto imprisonment, followed by abject poverty, if he has anything left at all.

A retired firefighter who once helped save a child's life, Norman Baker is not suspected of terrorism. He has never been charged with any statutory infraction, and has never been in any kind of trouble with the law. But he has been stripped of his right to vote and access to his own assets, which appear to have been well in excess of $1 million as little as three years ago.

Until he was placed in a nursing home against his will by the court-appointed attorney he is trying to reject, Norman Baker owned and managed two dozen rental properties, many of which he designed and built himself. He also owned a 33-acre farm, with four horses, an array of tractors and other heavy farm implements, a carefully preserved century-old barn, a restored farmhouse from which he drew steady rental income, and a 3,000-square-foot brick home, which he also designed and built.

All Norman Baker's properties were free of any liens or mortgages.  Before he was confined against his will to a nursing home, Norman Baker also had some $250,000 in cash and liquid investments above and beyond his real estate holdings. He rented his properties and lived a quiet, private life.

Today, without writing a check or using a credit card or making a single bad investment, Norman Baker has less than $20,000 in cash.  Most of his rental properties are vacant. Some have been flooded. In one, a broken pipe has resulted in a water bill in excess of $19,000.  Nearly all his properties, which were once entirely rented, are now vacant. Some have been seriously vandalized. A rental property business, which yielded a steady cash flow, is now bleeding cash every month.

Baker's farm implements--including a tractor owned by his brother-were sold by his unwanted guardian without his permission.  The guardian also sold the slate off the roof of Norman's carefully preserved antique hay barn, which may now be ruined by rainwater. The roof of his farm house has also been damaged and left unmended.

The comfortable brick ranch home Norman built by hand is boarded up and rotting. Its plush carpeting has apparently been stripped out. Its interior fixtures are gone or rotting. The concrete backyard swimming pool whose construction Baker oversaw is cracked and in ruins. When we visited the property, Baker could only peer into the windows of his wrecked home. It is posted against "trespassers."

At one point in his involuntary guardianship, a medical examiner hired at Norman's expense found him competent and recommended that he no longer need a guardian. But the attorney running Baker's guardianship refused to surrender control of Norman's assets. He then brought back the same medical examiner for yet another examination.  This doctor then proclaimed he "changed his mind" and that Norman needed a guardian after all. Norman was then billed some $2,000 for both examinations.

Since then, a Harvard-trained medical examiner has repeatedly tested Baker, who just turned 80. This doctor, whose most recent examination has been videotaped, has consistently found Baker competent to manage his own affairs and to hire his own professional help.

More than a year ago, a physician for the nursing home where Norman has been confined recommended that he be given an immediate discharge to the community. Baker walks three miles a day inside the home, and does his own laundry. He is dependent on no medications.

Norman Baker's case is not an isolated one. Usually guardianships are necessary where someone has no assets or no family and there has been no estate plan appointing a fiduciary. However, throughout the United States, tens of thousands of elderly citizens with significant assets have been placed under court-appointed guardians.

Deciding that random drug tests just aren't hard-core enough Orange County, California school district decides to take zero tolerance to the next level.

The Orange County Register reports:

School district officials are in the midst of unveiling a multilayered substance-abuse prevention plan that includes drug-sniffing dogs, a "party patrol" and random drug testing to deter student drug use at its schools.

The plans, which are preliminary but have gained Los Alamitos Unified school board direction to move forward, could take effect starting in September. School officials at the high-performing district say the plans are necessary to stop drug and alcohol use in students from escalating.

Among the brave new ideas the district plans to implement next year:

A "safe house directory" where parents vow not to not have alcohol or drugs available to minors.

A party patrol possibly employing undercover police or police informants to catch students using drugs or alcohol at juvenile parties.

"Voluntary" random drug testing. If a student refuses, the drug testing company will inform parents.

Drug detection canine trained to detect drugs in lockers and backpacks

SC Highway Patrol Using Cars to Purposely Hit On-Foot Suspects
CNN reports

South Carolina Highway Patrol officers have been caught on dash-cam video hitting African-American suspects with patrol cars, and using a racial epithet during at least one pursuit, a U.S. attorney said...

In one video, dated June 24, 2007, Lance Cpl. Steven Garren strikes a suspect running away during a pursuit at night. The man slides onto the hood of the car before landing on the roadside.

In an exchange with another officer afterward, Garren is heard saying, "I nailed the f--- out of him. He went flying up into the air."

Someone is heard asking, "You hit him?"

Garren responds, "Yeah, I hit him. I was trying to hit him." Video Watch men being chased and an officer saying he intentionally hit a man ยป

In another video, dated April 28, 2007, Lance Cpl. Alexander Richardson chases a suspect through an apartment complex. Richardson drives his car over the sidewalk, across the grass and through a common area as other people scramble to get out of the way.

Thanks for tip from J Godsey

Photographer gets wrestled to the ground and charged with obstructing police.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports:

Randy Dean Sievert drew ire from Manatee County sheriff's deputies as he aimed his cell phone camera at undercover investigators executing a search warrant in his neighborhood.

A deputy confronted Sievert, demanding that he destroy any photos of investigators and their vehicles.

Sievert was not a welcome observer of the drug raid. Authorities called him a "known drug dealer" based on a couple of past arrests. Taking photos of undercover officers jeopardized their lives, deputies said.

Randy Sievert

Sievert refused to remove his hands from his pockets and step away from his car after he was confronted about the pictures. Deputies forced him to the ground. The 20-year-old unemployed Bradenton man was arrested on a misdemeanor obstruction charge.

Investigators could not access the images on the phone. Sievert "finally" gave up a code that allowed deputies to find and destroy a photo that showed two undercover vehicles, according to reports. The phone is in evidence but not the photograph.

Sievert's obstruction case is attracting criticism in the legal community. Some defense attorneys say Sievert was unlawfully arrested and forced to destroy a photograph authorities had no grounds to erase.

"While they may not have liked what he was doing, it was not against the law," said Sievert's attorney, Charles M. Britt III.

If the police do not want undercover vehicles identified, they should not bring the cars and trucks when they execute search warrants, Britt said.

The vehicles are nondescript, blending in to allow officers to secretly monitor suspected criminal activity. Undercover officers routinely wear masks in public when participating in searches.

Britt filed court papers challenging the arrest, and a hearing is scheduled for next month. Ultimately, the state could decide Sievert did not commit a crime and abandon the case.

But an assistant state attorney, addressing the merits of the charge at a hearing Thursday, called Sievert's photograph "egregious."

Prosecutor Angel Colonneso argued to keep Sievert locked up on a probation violation charge. Sievert was on probation in a drug case when he was arrested on the obstruction charge in late February in the 6000 block of Seventh Street Court West.

Sievert refused a lawful command to erase the photographs, Colonneso said. That "reasonable request" was to protect undercover officers.

Assistant public defender Jennifer Joynt-Sanchez called the arrest "beyond belief." Joynt-Sanchez, representing Sievert in court, said Sievert had a right to resist unlawful police detention.

Joynt-Sanchez wanted Sievert released from jail on his own recognizance. But Circuit Judge Debra Johnes Riva ordered Sievert held.

Obstructing the execution of a search warrant is a rare charge. In most cases the charge is applied to a person who is at a house -- and connected to the criminal investigation -- during the raid.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I really don't know squat about the particulars of this case, but ... well ... so this kid comes to school with a handwritten list of six names. He doesn't have a weapon, didn't issue any threats, and in fact nothing actually happened at all.

So the school board suspends him. For two years.

Does this make sense to anybody? Was this stuff just always happening in America, but before the Internet I never heard about it?

What, was this kid a skinhead? the only black kid in a white neighborhood? a Skittles dealer? Was there some reason everybody was so scared of what is called a "hit list" in the article? Who can tell? Apparently the school board is so very concerned about this kid's "privacy" that they won't actually tell anyone any details.

I mean, they're all about watching out for the quality of life of kids they don't want to see at school until 2010.

PZ Myers barred from cinema by police

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A funny thing happened on the way to the Creationist movie: I don't know if you follow PZ Myers at Pharyngula, and normally I wouldn't post on this here, because he's not really political or involved in civil rights per se. Or so one would think.

Instead, he's a vocal atheist and anti-Creationist, and a biology professor. In today's America, being an atheist means you're a member of one of the most universally hated groups around, but normally you're not the target of civil liberties abuses, because you look just like regular people.

So it was with some surprise that I read the post on his blog just now -- it turns out that some group of loony God-botherers has made a "documentary" about how Creationist "scientists" are ignored by real ones. PZ thought he'd go to the show -- in the Mall of America. But the makers of the movie (and wait - was this, like, a premiere? In a mall?) specifically told the theater to bar him. By name, apparently.

So, OK, the theater barred him, which I find bizarre behavior for a nominally profit-oriented enterprise, but where it gets into civil liberties is that while he was standing there with his family, talking and laughing before they went on in to see the movie, the police came over and said that if he didn't leave the premises immediately, he would be arrested.

So I leave you with this thought: if America isn't turning into a theocracy, why is a vocal critic of theocrats threatened with arrest when he's not causing a public disturbance? Does anybody honestly think that even if, say, Michael Moore were to make such a near-psychotic request, that the police would threaten, say, Rush Limbaugh with arrest if he failed to leave the theater immediately? I mean, I wish that would happen - well, in all fairness, I guess I don't, since inverting the political signs doesn't make the act a positive one. Abuse of power is still abuse.

But we all know who abuses the power.

The Drug War Hath No Mercy

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Lincoln, Nebraska- Federal prison officials are refusing a dying 10-year-old girl, Jayci Yaeger, her last wish: to spend time with her dad who is serving time for a drug offense.

KOLN Lincoln reports:

A little girl fights for her life, and her last wish is to see her father. But that wish may not come true.

"They didn't expect her to still be here. She's fighting, day by day, minute by minute," said Vonda Yaeger, mother.

10/11 has followed the story of 10-year-old Jayci Yaeger as she battled brain tumors. Now doctors say she is about to lose that fight. Her last wish is to spend what time she has left with her father, but he is in a federal prison for drug charges.

Less than six months ago, Jayci was energetic, fun and upbeat. Now she's just a shadow of what she used to be -- lying in a hospital bed.

Jayci has brain tumors and doctors say she's dying.

"What doctors say? They say there's nothing they can do for her. The tumors are growing and hemorrhaging, and right now nothing they can do for her, just keep her comfortable," Vonda Yaeger said.

In less than two months, cancer turned an energetic little girl into someone those who know her hardly recognize. During the fight, her family has been hopeful, but now reality is setting in.

"It's really hard to say it, but it's time now and she doesn't need to suffer anymore. She needs to be where she can be peaceful and happy and not in pain," Yaeger said.

There's one more thing Yaeger said her daughter needs -- her father, Jason. But he's in federal prison in South Dakota and has been denied repeated attempts to grant him a 30-day release. Yaeger was convicted of methamphetamine charges nearly five years ago.

"She expressed many times that she misses him, and he talks to her on the phone now and she cries. That's the only time I see her cry," Yaeger said.

In fact, Yaeger said the need to see her father is the only thing keeping Jayci going.

"I think she understands. She knows what the outcome is going to be. She's very scared, and I think she's holding on for her father," Yaeger said.

Yaeger said denying Jayci's last wish is cruel, and goes beyond punishing Jason for any crime he ever committed.

"She didn't do anything wrong. He was there for her when she was born. He should be there for her when she goes," she said.

Jayci's family said they aren't looking to get Jason out of prison, or shorten his sentence. They even asked for him to be put on electronic surveillance while was in Lincoln, and he offered to serve double his remaining time when he went back.

Yankton Federal Prison Camp officials said they had no comment on the situation.

Brit Author Declared Contraband by US Customs

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Back in the bad old days of book censorship and Comstock Laws US customs inspectors famously flagged cultural contraband in the form of naughty, illegal books like Ulysses and the Tropic of Cancer at the US border. Nowadays (for the time being anyway) not so many books get banned but, thanks to the war on drugs, mounting xenophobia and a security-industrial complex driven to keep itself busy, authors do.

International Herald Tribune reports

British memoirist Sebastian Horsley is denied U.S. entry

Sebastian Horsley, a British author who has written an eyebrow-raising memoir detailing a life of rampant drug use and voluminous encounters with prostitutes, was turned back at Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday as he tried to enter the United States for a book party and New York news media tour.

Horsley, whose memoir, "Dandy in the Underworld," was published last week in paperback by Harper Perennial, a unit of HarperCollins, said he was detained by United States customs authorities for eight hours and questioned about his former drug addiction, use of prostitutes and activity as a male escort.

"I'm absolutely shattered and upset and gutted about not being able to come to America," Horsley said in a telephone interview from London, where he had returned on Wednesday. "I was very much looking forward to meeting everybody."

Lucille Cirillo, a spokeswoman for the New York office of United States Customs and Border Protection, said she could not comment on specific cases. But in an e-mail message, she said that under a waiver program that allows British citizens to enter the United States without a visa, "travelers who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (which includes controlled-substance violations) or admit to previously having a drug addiction are not admissible."

(Thanks to Nobody's Business)

The blandly domained today posts a story on an FBI sting operation. The agent, apparently having solved the terrorism issue before lunch, posted a nonsense video file and called it child pornography, then went after all the IP addresses in his log.

Now, you and I being the tech-savvy people we are, we can see the dangers in this. In fact, anybody who's ever actually tried to analyze a server log should have alarm bells going off at this point: an IP trace is sufficiently vague that it really, really, really shouldn't be sufficient cause to impound your computers and freeze your bank account.

Shouldn't -- but is. Legally.

Watch what you click -- if I were a Russian botnet operator, I know how I'd be attacking antispammers, for instance.

Freedom of the Press, FEMA style.
Editor and Publisher reports:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is charging a newspaper $209,990 for records documenting the agency's response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a price deemed "absurd" by one lawmaker.

The Advocate of Baton Rouge must pay that amount before FEMA will turn over copies of more than 2 million pages of documents relating to inspection and maintenance of government-issued trailers and mobile homes, the newspaper reported yesterday.

FEMA also gave the newspaper 10 days to pay or said it would consider the request withdrawn.
(thanks to jgodsey for tip)

Sprawling, Inaccurate Terrorist Watchlists

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They're not just for hassling airline fliers anymore.
The Washington Post reports:

Consumers Get Tangled In Terrorist Watchlist

One man went into a Glen Burnie, Md., Toyota dealership to buy a car, only to be told that a name check revealed he was on a U.S. Treasury Department watchlist of suspected terrorists and drug dealers. He had to be "checked for tattoos," he said, to make sure he wasn't the suspect.

An 18-year-old found he could not open an account to accept credit card payments for his fledgling technology consulting business because his name was similar to that of a Libyan official on the watchlist.

A former U.S. Navy officer who served in the Persian Gulf and whose father was killed in the Korean War when he was a child, found himself locked out of his PayPal account because his name was similar to one on the watchlist.

"What do I need to do to remove my name from this list?" the officer wrote to Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which compiles the list. He signed off, "An EXTREMELY insulted veteran of the U.S. Navy."

More American consumers have gotten caught up in a special brand of watchlist purgatory because their names are similar to ones on OFAC's list of "specially designated nationals," according to e-mails and other documents released under court order yesterday. By law, businesses are barred from conducting transactions with anyone on the list. Yesterday's court-ordered release of documents to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, offers a window into the kinds of disruptions suffered by those ensnared in the process, as well as the difficulty of clearing their names.

(thanks to J godsey for tip)

To Serve and Inspect

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Epidemic of gratuitous strip-searches by Albany police.

The Albany Times-Union reports

On Monday, a 22-year-old Troy woman who said she was unlawfully strip-searched by members of the Albany Police Department and then forced to undergo a pelvic cavity search at Albany Medical Center Hospital on Jan. 28 filed a notice of claim against the city.
That legal filing comes a little more than a week after police leaders defended their internal investigation into a complaint by a Ravena woman who said she was subjected to a cavity search on a public street during a traffic stop on Dec. 22.

The January incident allegedly unfolded when a vehicle in which Crystal Royal, 22, was traveling was stopped by police on Interstate 787. It's not clear whether she was the driver or if others were in the car.

Royal's driver's license was current and her vehicle was properly registered and inspected, according to the claim filed by her attorney Terence L. Kindlon of Albany. He said she was not stopped for any traffic infraction.

She was made to stand on the roadway for an extended period of time while her car, body and purse were searched, according to the claim, which was filed in order to preserve Royal's right to file a lawsuit against the city.

Royal's cellphone also was seized, and police used it to inspect her call list and place phone calls, according to the claim.

Royal was then transported to an Albany police station, where she was "involuntarily subjected to an unlawful body cavity and strip search" that included having her squat naked in front of a female officer, the claim states.

Thanks to Jonathan Turley

Busted for Pot: It's Jesus or Jail

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Is it Theocracy yet?

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In 2001, a young man in Michigan named Joseph R. Hanas was arrested for possession of marijuana. He pleaded guilty and was told he could avoid prison by entering a drug rehabilitation program.

The program Hanas ended up in is called Inner City Christian Outreach. It is sponsored by a Pentecostal church. Hanas is Catholic, and upon his arrival at the program, his rosary and prayer book were confiscated. He was told Catholicism is a form of witchcraft and that he would not be allowed to see a priest.

When a relative of Hanas's complained, she was told the young man had given up his religious freedom when he signed up for the program.

Hanas says he was indoctrinated with Pentecostalism. He was forced to attend worship services, read the Bible for hours a day and denied access to his attorney. He wasn't offered any actual drug rehabilitation; the program merely referred clients to another religious provider for rehab.

Ed Felten gets mail: specifically, a letter from Sequoia Voting Systems threatening a lawsuit if a certain New Jersey county sends him one of their voting machines for quality assessment.

Seems like they don't want New Jersey to know how trustworthy their election process is.

From the Department of Pre-Crime (and yeah, I know BoingBoing scooped me on this, too, but this one was just due to my own dilatory behavior): Scotland Yard wants children exhibiting early criminal tendencies to have their DNA sampled so the police can know who to look for.

Isn't that charming?

Of course, there's no danger in that at all.

America's war on tourism continues!

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Doctorow scoops me again by noting yesterday's USA Today article on DHS's wacky plan to make the airlines organize and pay for fingerprinting people as they leave the US.

See, fingerprinting departures is so essential that nobody actually wants to be stuck doing it.

Cory also notes that the whole fingerprinting fiasco has been fantastic from the start -- all those expensive machines (with a price tag of $15 billion(!)) haven't caught a single terrorist. Or any suspected terrorists. They caught about a thousand minor visa violations -- at a mere $15 million per violation, we all think we could be getting better value for our security dollar. Wonder where those billions went? I'm thinking somebody had a cousin in the fingerprinting machine business...

(Later update: that's what I get for trusting Cory Doctorow! The price of the fingerprinting system was only in the hundreds of millions. OK, so that's fine, then.) (Not.)

Thanks to jgodsey for the tip (not that I wouldn't have been heading over to BoingBoing anyway, but still -- thanks!)

Bad legislation alert (thanks to Amy Chester for the tip): Senate bill 1357, the MOTHERS Act (with a name feebly attempting to justify the acronym, but failing by one letter), on the surface, looks pretty reasonable. It purports to make it easier for states to fund programs to fight postpartum depression.

The problem: it states that women suffering from postpartum depression who remain untreated are a danger to society, and it is quick to assume that medication is the route to treatment of postpartum depression. Opponents suspect it was written by the pharmaceutical industry.

This is a lazy bill, part of reams and reams of bad legislation proposed in our capitals every day. It's short enough to read the whole thing, so read it. It's a great example of how our liberties erode away by infinitesimal steps: there's nothing that forces this to curtail liberties, but if passed, it will provide just a little more impetus in the wrong direction.

A nice editorial from the LA Times today explains a little recent history to shed light on why we care about the wiretapping powers of our government.

It's tempting to say, "I'm not a terrorist, so the government should be given whatever powers it needs." (Well, it's tempting for those of you less curmudgeonly than me, I suppose.) But in actual point of fact, when the government is allowed to spy on people without oversight, history shows us that it always uses these tools to suppress dissent.

Governments aren't inherently evil, and on the record, I don't even think the present Administration is evil. But government is made of fallible human beings, and it's all too easy for human beings to see themselves as necessary for the good of the nation, and to see all their enemies as a threat to the nation. But when their "enemies" include their political foes, it gets tough to draw that line -- and the result is fiascoes like Watergate and, now, probably, the Bush Administration's adventures in crime even before 9/11.

Moral of the story: you have to watch the watchers, and nobody should be above the law. Otherwise, why have a law? Just declare a dictatorship -- it would be easier, after all.

Springfield, Ohio: (from WHIO-TV)
Springfield South High School Assistant Principal Karl Perkins has resigned from his job over his writing of erotic poetry.Perkins authored a book of poems under the pseudonym Antonio Love. The poems contained sexually-explicit material that was downloaded from a web site by a student.Perkins' resignation includes a $20,000 buyout of a portion of his contract. The district will also pay his attorney $10,000.The Springfield City School Board of Education unanimously accepted his resignation.

Surprise, Surprise

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FBI used its write your own search warrant Patriot Act powers with all the prudence and discretion of a crack whore.

The Washington Post reports :

The FBI has increasingly used administrative orders to obtain the personal records of U.S. citizens rather than foreigners implicated in terrorism or counterintelligence investigations, and at least once it relied on such orders to obtain records that a special intelligence-gathering court had deemed protected by the First Amendment, according to two government audits released yesterday...

A report a year ago by the Justice Department's inspector general disclosed that abuses involving national security letters had occurred from 2003 through 2005 and helped provoke the changes.But the report makes it clear that the abuses persisted in 2006 and disclosed that 60 percent of the nearly 50,000 security letters issued that year by the FBI targeted Americans.

Because U.S. citizens enjoy constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, judicial warrants are ordinarily required for government surveillance. But national security letters are approved only by FBI officials and are not subject to judicial approval; they routinely demand certain types of personal data, such as telephone, e-mail and financial records, while barring the recipient from disclosing that the information was requested or supplied.

According to the findings by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, the FBI tried to work around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, which oversees clandestine spying in the United States, after it twice rejected an FBI request in 2006 to obtain certain records. The court had concluded "the 'facts' were too thin" and the "request implicated the target's First Amendment rights," the report said.

But the FBI went ahead and got the records anyway by using a national security letter. The FBI's general counsel, Valerie E. Caproni, told investigators it was appropriate to issue the letters in such cases because she disagreed with the court's conclusions.

In total, Fine said, the FBI issued almost 200,000 national security letters from 2003 through 2006, and they were used in a third of all FBI national security and computer probes during that time. Fine said his investigators have identified hundreds of possible violations of laws or internal guidelines in the use of the letters, including cases in which FBI agents made improper requests, collected more data than they were allowed to, or did not have proper authorization to proceed with the case.

Turning Back the Clock

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Bush Guts Intelligence Oversight Committee Created after Watergate 

Charlie Savage reports in the Boston Globe

Almost 32 years to the day after President Ford created an independent Intelligence Oversight Board made up of private citizens with top-level clearances to ferret out illegal spying activities, President Bush issued an executive order that stripped the board of much of its authority.

The White House did not say why it was necessary to change the rules governing the board when it issued Bush's order late last month. But critics say Bush's order is consistent with a pattern of steps by the administration that have systematically scaled back Watergate-era intelligence reforms.

"It's quite clear that the Bush administration officials who were around in the 1970s are settling old scores now," said Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union. "Here they are even preventing oversight within the executive branch. They have closed the books on the post-Watergate era."

Ford created the board following a 1975-76 investigation by Congress into domestic spying, assassination operations, and other abuses by intelligence agencies. The probe prompted fierce battles between Congress and the Ford administration, whose top officials included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the current president's father, George H. W. Bush...

Under the old rules, whenever the oversight board learned of intelligence activity that it believed might be "unlawful or contrary to executive order," it had a duty to notify both the president and the attorney general. But Bush's order deleted the board's authority to refer matters to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation, and the new order said the board should notify the president only if other officials are not already "adequately" addressing the problem.

From the thought crime department - Charleston youth Jonathan Hayes, who was expelled from school for writing a song involving people getting shot, has now also been put behind bars for the same act. The crime? "Terrorizing." Is that even a word?

Also note the use of "linked to" in the headline -- terrorists are always "linked to" things. It's a pattern I'm starting to notice.

Opacity in Government

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The unitary executive comes full circle, asserting the right not only to ignore Congress and the law by fiat, but, finally, to declare itself entirely immune from the need to even offer reasons or justifications for its actions.

Raw Story reports:

The Bush Administration's Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel is refusing to turn over a document providing its analysis of Bush's justification for executive orders.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists, the office said the document was "classified."

Steven Aftergood, who writes the Secrecy News blog for the Federation, requested the legal opinion after a Democratic senator referenced it on the Senate floor.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the freshman senator who ousted Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) in 2006, said he'd reviewed three documents that outlined Justice Department opinions.

"For years, under the Bush administration, the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice has issued highly classified, secret legal opinions related to surveillance," Whitehouse said in a Dec. 7, 2007 floor statement. "This is an administration that hates answering to an American court, that wants to grade its own exams, and OLC is the inside place the administration goes to get legal support for its spying program."

"As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was given access to those secret opinions and spent hours poring over them. Sitting in that secure room, as a lawyer, as a former U.S. attorney, legal counsel to Rhode Island's Governor, and State attorney general, I was increasingly dismayed and amazed as I read on," he continued.

Whitehouse gave two examples from the documents he read:

An Executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new Executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous Executive order. Rather than violate an Executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

The President, exercising his constitutional authority under article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President's authority under article II.

In other words, the president can decide whether his own interpretation of the law is lawful.

"We requested a copy of that seemingly innocuous, if questionable, opinion under the Freedom of Information Act," Aftergood wrote at Secrecy News. "But the request was denied."

Why Wait for a Law?

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Apparently all hot to move into the next phase of the drug war, Lincoln, Nebraska police launch a preemptive arrest, busting a store owner for sale of Salvia divinorum, despite the fact that the state's proposed law against the herb has not even passed the legislature yet.

Lincoln Journal Star reports:

A legislative bill that would make Salvia divinorum an illegal drug in Nebraska has little chance of passage during the last six weeks of the legislative session.

Lincoln Police on Monday made a Salvia bust anyway.

Citing a state statute that prohibits Nebraskans from selling certain compounds that will induce an intoxicated or otherwise mind-altering state, officers executed a search warrant on Exotica, 2441 N. 48th St. The Lincoln store  sells the herb, a cousin of sage, generally smoked to create a short-term hallucinogenic experience.

Exotica owner Christian Firoz said four officers entered his store early Monday evening, took all his Salvia and issued him a citation for selling certain compounds.

"They said they're going to hit everybody that's selling Salvia and take everything," Firoz, 35, said.

Firoz said his court date is April 16, and that he's going to challenge the citation.

"I signed (the citation)," Firoz said. "I'll be in court. We plan to fight it because we've been selling it for a while and it's a lot of our sales."

He also said the information that he has leads him to believe it is legal to sell Salvia.

Sen. Vickie McDonald of St. Paul sponsored the bill to ban Salvia on behalf of Attorney General Jon Bruning. The bill has no priority status, and there's little movement to add it as an amendment to another bill.
(Thanks to the Agitator)

Mother of 3 faces a year in jail for walking a few yards from her car to donate money while her baby slept.

Treffley Coyne decided to drive to Wal-Mart in the Chicago suburb of Crestwood so her three children and a young friend could donate the coins they'd collected at her husband's office to the Salvation Army.

Even as she buckled 2-year-old Phoebe into the car, the girl was asleep. When Coyne arrived at the store, she found a spot to park in a loading zone, right behind someone tying a Christmas tree onto a car.

"It's sleeting out, it's not pleasant, I don't want to disturb her, wake her up," Coyne said this week. "It was safer to leave her in the safety and warmth of an alarmed car than take her."

So Coyne switched on the emergency flashers, locked the car, activated the alarm and walked the other children to the bell ringer.

She snapped a few pictures of the girls donating money and headed back to the car. But a community service officer blocked her way.

Minutes later, she was under arrest -- the focus of both a police investigation and a probe by the state's child welfare agency.

She was on a tirade, she was yelling at me," Coyne said. The officer, Coyne said, didn't want to hear about how close Coyne was, how she never set foot inside the store and was just there to let the kids donate money, or how she could always see her car.

Coyne telephoned her husband, Tim Janecyk, who advised her not to say anything else to police until he arrived. So Coyne declined to talk further, refusing even to tell police her child's name.

When Janecyk pulled up, his wife already was handcuffed, sitting in a patrol car.


The 36-year-old suburban mother is preparing to go on trial Thursday on misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and obstructing a peace officer. If convicted, she could be sentenced to a year in jail and fined $2,500, even though child welfare workers found no credible evidence of abuse or neglect.

Source: Fox News (link here)

Cause: Possession of a Bag of Skittles

From the Center for Consumer Freedom (link here)
What does it take for a school to suspend an eighth-grader, bar his attendance from an honors dinner, and strip him of his post as class Vice President? If you guessed drugs, alcohol, or a firearm, think again. A bag of candy is reason enough. This week a Connecticut school levied thse very punishments on an honor student with no history of misconduct, just for buying a bag of Skittles from his classmate. School officials are hiding behind their  Wellness Policy--which prohibits bake sales, classroom pizza parties, and the sale of candy--as justification for the harsh disciplinary action.

Thanks to Reason Hit and Run

Winning the War on Tourists

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Avedon Carol finds a good article in the IHT - turns out American tourist traffic is down 11% since 2000, even though global tourist traffic is up 28%. Estimated cost to the economy: $100 billion a year. Even with the increasingly worthless dollar, that's a lot of money.

The reasons are obvious: it's hard to get a visa, people are shackled and treated like criminals if and when they do get a visa -- why would anybody go through that willingly when there's the rest of the world to visit?

Good job, America. That'll win the ol' hearts and minds.

Stop Making Scents

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Minnesota Lawmaker Pushing State Bill for Fragrance-Free Schools

AP reports


Another good catch by BoingBoing: This is a very long article from the AP on all the pharmaceuticals in American drinking water (mostly from other people's toilets, you see.) But it can be boiled down to this:

  • There's lots of stuff in our water.
  • The EPA doesn't really know what's there; they're concentrating on detection.
  • In many cases, stuff has been detected, but local or state officials refuse to discuss it, "citing post-9/11 concerns".
  • The EPA doesn't want to come out and say there's a problem.

There are two problems with this; one is that the EPA won't come out and say there's a problem, because it might cause financial problems for Big Pharma and for waste disposal companies.

But the far more chilling issue is this: when it is known that there is a known threat to public health (I'm talking specifically about Arlington, TX and Emporia, KS), and local officials refuse to disclose any details to residents because people flew a plane into a building seven years ago and two thousand miles away, something is wrong.

The fact that there may or may not be an existential threat to our civilization really has nothing to do with telling the public what pharmaceuticals have actually been found in their drinking water, and of course no sane person would think that it does.

Which begs the question: just who do we have running Arlington, Texas, and Emporia, Kansas? Can't we fire those people, and find somebody who can at least come up with better excuses to dodge responsibility?

Back to the Data Mines

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Admiral Poindexter's "Total Information Awareness"  pilot project, designed to create a universal database of domestic and international communications and commercial transactions which could be mined to identify suspect behavioral patterns, SEEMED to have been derailed back in 2003 after a vigorous campaign by civil liberties groups. However, as Siobhan Gordon reports in the Wall Street Journal, the National Security Agency has all along been moving the vision of a data mined populace forward at greater and greater speed and scale.

"Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans' privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn't disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system."

"According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called "black programs" whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

It isn't clear how many of the different kinds of data are combined and analyzed together in one database by the NSA. An intelligence official said the agency's work links to about a dozen antiterror programs in all.

A number of NSA employees have expressed concerns that the agency may be overstepping its authority by veering into domestic surveillance. And the constitutional question of whether the government can examine such a large array of information without violating an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy "has never really been resolved," said Suzanne Spaulding, a national-security lawyer who has worked for both parties on Capitol Hill."

What do you get when you combine political correctness with post-Columbine paranoia?

AP reports:
The family of a middle school student who was given detention for wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of a gun has filed a federal freedom of speech lawsuit against the school district.

Donald Miller III, 14, went to Penn Manor High School in December wearing a T-shirt he said was intended to honor his uncle, a U.S. Army soldier fighting in Iraq.

The shirt bears the image of a military sidearm and on the front pocket says "Volunteer Homeland Security." On the back, over another image of the weapon, are the words "Special issue Resident Lifetime License -- United States Terrorist Hunting Permit -- Permit No. 91101 -- Gun Owner -- No Bag Limit."

Officials at the Millersville school told him to turn his shirt inside out. When Miller refused, he got two days of detention.

His parents, Donald and Tina Miller of Holtwood, have accused the Penn Manor School District in a lawsuit of violating their son's First Amendment rights with a "vague Orwellian policy" that stifles both patriotism and free speech.

But an attorney for the school district said school must create a safe environment for students in the post-Columbine era, and bringing even the image of a gun to school violates the district's policy.

His method: Driving a reporter into personal bankruptcy for refusing to divulge sources.

The AP reports :

A judge is trying to bankrupt an ex-reporter with daily fines as much as $5,000 for refusing to disclose her sources for stories about the 2001 anthrax attacks, press advocates said Saturday.

They also said the case involving Toni Locy shows why Congress should pass a federal shield law for reporters.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Friday denied a request from Locy to stay payment of fines for a contempt citation pending an appeal and ruled she must "personally bear the responsibility of paying the fine the court imposed."

While at USA Today, Locy wrote about a former Army scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, whom the Justice Department identified in 2002 as a "person of interest" in the anthrax attacks. They killed five and sickened 17 others weeks after the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001.

Hatfill has denied any involvement in the anthrax attacks and sued the government for violating his privacy by discussing the investigation with reporters. No one was charged in the attacks.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, said Walton appears to be trying to bankrupt Locy, a former Associated Press reporter who now is a professor at West Virginia University's journalism school.

"What he's doing is essentially saying, 'Toni Locy I am going to destroy your life'" she said. "This is just plain crazy. I know you're not supposed to call a federal judge arrogant, but this is arrogant."

The judge pointed to statements Hatfill's lawyers made in court papers in explaining his rationale. Hatfill's legal team said that while Locy's reporting was conducted "within the scope of her employment for USA Today, her contempt was not. It began long after she left the employment of USA Today."

Starting at midnight Tuesday, Locy was ordered to pay fines of $500 a day for the first week, $1,000 a day for the second week and $5,000 thereafter until she appears before the judge April 3.


The State In Loco Parentis

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Regardless of what your opinion is on the educational merits of home schooling, the language of the California state court of appeals in cracking down on "uncredentialed" home schoolers is striking for the creepily authoritarian assumptions about the role of education and relation of school and state that seem to underly it.

"In obedience to the constitutional mandate to bring about a general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence, the Legislature, over the years, enacted a series of laws. A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare."

Thanks to Steve Greenhut

Feds Opening Up Backdoor to Wireless Data?

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Congressional Energy and Commerce committee hears wireless telco consultant outline existence of program allowing a federal entity known as the "Quantico Circuit" unfettered access to all customers voice calls and data packets of at least one major wireless carrier.

RCR Wireless News reports:
"A new whistleblower has surfaced with allegations that a major wireless carrier may have given the U.S. government wholesale access to subscribers' calls and other proprietary information..

Babak Pasdar, a computer security consultant who heads Bat Blue Corp., made the allegations in an affidavit given to the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit whistleblower advocacy group. Pasdar said he was brought in to work on a project for an unnamed large wireless company, and became concerned about the legality of the "Quantico Circuit," a high-speed line from the wireless carrier to an unnamed third party. Quantico, Va., is the site of a U.S. intelligence and military base."

Congressional committee chairs John Dingell and Ed Markey apparently are taking Pasdar seriously as witnessed in this letter.
For further background see Kevin Poulsen's piece in Wired Threat Level.

(Thanks to EFF)

Two weeks ago the Naperville Central High School's Central Times, the student paper, had a special section covering the topical issue of drug use by high school students. The package included a column opposing drug use, an anonymous first-person account of using and selling drugs, and a story that quotes drug users, a health teacher and statistical evidence about marijuana and its effects. The paper's Editor in Chief Hannah Oppenheimer, a senior who co-wrote the third story, said the newspaper staff doesn't condone drug use. But she said it chose to allow a first-person account from a user to give students a story they don't usually read, especially in a school setting. She explained that the combination of the three stories was meant to bring proper balance to the issue.
Reported in the Daily Herald.

Sounds like a pretty serious, laudably ambitious experiment in student journalism, doesn't it?

Not to the school principal who felt the stories, especially the first-person narrative, promote and glorify drug use and could step outside the bounds of what would be expected from a high school newspaper and is threatening to assert administrative control over the paper's  contents. In preparation for a potential censorship battle the editor and faculty advisor are conferring with the Student Press Law Center. Unfortunately they'd face an uphill legal battle. Though the US Supreme Court in 1969 recognized first amendment rights for high school students, most court decisions since,  most notably Hazelwood School District et al. v. Kuhlmeier et al. (1988), have given high school administrators broad authority to restrict student expression  

No Doubt J. Edgar Hoover Would be Proud

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Feds Bust Upscale Prostitution Ring

That is a headline the old man,a consummate publicity hound, would have killed for.

From the AFP
"New York authorities have broken up an exclusive international ring of prostitutes charging up to 5,500 dollars an hour for their services, according to an indictment unveiled by prosecutors.

Four people alleged to have run the "Emperor's Club" were charged with conspiracy to violate federal prostitution statutes, while two of them were also charged with laundering more than one million dollars in illegal proceeds.

According to prosecutors, the ring operated in cities across the United States and in London and Paris, employing more than 50 prostitutes who charged clients fees ranging from 1,000 dollars to more than 5,500 dollars per hour."

 Who needs to investigate really dangerous criminality when you've got sex, scandal and the possibility perhaps ( as J.Edgar sure would have done) of getting some dirty dossier material on a few of the rich and famous that might come in handy sometime.  Not to mention killer media attention. (Which is a hell of a lot better than having the media paying too much serious attention to, say, new information trickling out about National Security Letters and how much more they've been used than the government had let on).

Exciting stuff, but one has to wonder about the Bureau's priorities

"Several phone numbers associated with Emperors Club have been under surveillance by the FBI, which intercepted more than 5,000 telephone calls and text messages during the investigation, according to court documents.

Excerpts of those intercepted calls, provided in court documents, offer a window onto some of the managerial challenges that confronted the four defendants who allegedly managed the operation. In them, the managers discuss how some of the Emperor Club prostitutes had difficulty taking imprints of their clients' American Express cards, making it difficult to charge them. Prostitutes weren't always punctual in arriving at their engagements. There were scheduling conflicts to resolve caused by the photo shoots of the women who modeled during the day. And clients called in wanting to know what they should tell their accountants about the expenses they were racking up with the Emperors Club."

But at least we're all safer knowing for the moment there's a bit less upscale vice in the world. And I guess they needed a breather from all that terror stuff.
Abu Ghraib and Gitmo Come to Nevada.

From ACLU Blog

We're going to tell you the story of Patrick Cavanaugh, a 60-year old inmate at the Ely State Prison in Ely, Nev. Patrick was an insulin-dependent diabetic who was imprisoned at Ely for two years. During his time at Ely, Patrick was denied regular insulin injections, which, as many people know, is essential for diabetics to lead a healthy life. As a result of this deprivation of insulin, he developed gangrene. This didn't go unnoticed by prison staff: the smell of putrefying flesh was hard to miss. The medical staff could have opted to have the decayed, gangrenous limbs amputated, which would have saved Patrick's life. Instead, they did nothing, and Patrick essentially rotted to death.

Patrick's story is just one of hundreds -- 1,000 men are incarcerated at Ely State Prison, and many of them are suffering tremendously. Their pain was clear to Dr. William Noel, a local doctor of osteopathic medicine whom the ACLU's NAtional Prison Project retained to examine the medical records of 35 inmates at Ely. Dr. Noel writes:
"[T]he medical care provided at Ely State Prison amounts to the grossest possible medical malpractice, and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered in the medical profession in my thirty-five years of practice."

Here's Dr. Noel's report.


For reading a book AGAINST the Ku Klux Klan.

The place: Indiana University- Purdue University, Indianapolis.

Keith John Sampson does janitorial work for the campus facility services at IUPUI, where he's been gradually accumulating credits for a degree in communications studies. As an avid reader. It's been his habit to bring books to work with him, so that he can read in the break room when he's not on the clock. While working at the IUPUI's Medical Science building Sampson was reading a book Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fight Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. The book, a scholarly study published by Loyola Press of Loyola University-Chicago, is a narrative history of a little remembered confrontation back in 1924 between Klan members, who'd come to the Notre Dame campus to insult and taunt Catholics, and the Catholic students at the school. It recounts how the Notre Dame students beat back the Klan, who subsequently left town after a series of street fights.

But, context be damned, the book had the words Ku Klux Klan in the title and thus happened to offend an employee who told the shop steward. Sampson's name was then turned over to the University's
Affirmative Action Office, which (doubtless without even looking at, much less reading the book, charged him with racial harassment and insensitivity, saying ""You demonstrated disdain and insensitivity to your coworkers who repeatedly requested that you refrain from reading the book which has such an inflammatory and offensive topic in their presence ... you used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your Black coworkers."  Sampson, under threat of disciplinary action by the university, was ordered to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of his coworkers and, when reading the book, to sit apart from them.
(Thanks to Legal Satyricon)
Also to Classically Liberal

BoingBoing finds a good one in the NYT today: There's this English bloke doing business out of the Canary Islands, servers in the Bahamas, organizing Hemingway trips to Cuba for Europeans. He had the misfortune of registering his domain names in the United States, though -- and the government says he might conceivably have helped Americans travel.

So eNom yanked his domain registrations with no warning, and won't let him transfer them -- he's now on another one of those secret lists that they don't have public rules for.

Good job, America. Shining beacon on the hill, go us!

Warrantless Surveillance Gone Postal

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Not to be outdone by the NSA good old fashioned snail mail snooping is going strong

Raw Story reports
The US postal service approves more than 10,000 requests from US law enforcement each year to record names, addresses and other information from the outside of packages, according to information released through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The warrantless surveillance mail program -- as it is known -- requires only the approval of the US Postal Inspection Service Director, and not a judge.

George W. Bush is starting to feel neglected, so he reminds us all that we need to take Osama bin Laden's warnings very seriously and remember the lessons we learned on 9/11.

Who writes this?

Is the President of the United States of America telling me that some guy in a turban done schooled us? Who does George W. Bush think he is? "We have nothing to fear but everything I tell you to fear!"


The War on Baggies

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Next phase in the drug war: target health food stores, delis, groceries selling the little plastic bags used to sell drugs.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Tiny plastic bags used to sell small quantities of heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana and other drugs would be banned in Chicago, under a crackdown advanced Tuesday by a City Council committee.

Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) persuaded the Health Committee to ban possession of "self-sealing plastic bags under two inches in either height or width," after picking up 15 of the bags on a recent Sunday afternoon stroll through a West Side park.

Lt. Kevin Navarro, commanding officer of the Chicago Police Department's Narcotics and Gang Unit, said the ordinance will be an "important tool" to go after grocery stores, health food stores and other businesses. The bags are used by the thousand to sell small quantities of drugs at $10 or $20 a bag.

Navarro referred to the plastic bags as "Marketing 101 for the drug dealers." Many of them have symbols, allowing drug users to ask for "Superman" or "Blue Dolphin" instead of the drug itself, he said.

Prior to the final vote, Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) expressed concern about arresting innocent people. He noted that extra buttons that come with suits, shirts and blouses -- and jewelry that's been repaired -- come in similar plastic bags.

Burnett was reassured by language that states "one reasonably should know that such items will be or are being used" to package, transfer, deliver or store a controlled substance. Violators would be punished by a $1,500 fine.

"'Jamfest' is canceled due to douchebags in central office", Connecticut high-school student.  So Avery Doninger wrote on her blog after the school administration postponed an annual battle of the local bands festival. A harmless enough extra-curricular venting of steam you say? Not to the school administration who apparently monitor students off-campus writings in search of malcontents and objectionable attitudes.

After discovering the blog entry, school officials refused to allow Doninger to run for re-election as class secretary. Doninger won anyway with write-in votes, but the school refused to allow her to take office.

A lower federal court supported the school, denying Doninger's request for an injunction, and saying it believed she could be punished for writing in a blog because the blog addressed school issues and was likely to be read by other students.

The court's upholding of the school's right to rescind student free speech rights not only in the context of school activities but in the realm of extracurricular speech marks the most blatant expansion yet of the parameters of school authority (and concomitant erosion of student free speech rights) beyond the school building. In the notorious Bong Hits for Jesus case a year ago the US Supreme Court ruled that schools could curtail student free speech on school grounds, a least if that speech could be interpreted as promoting drug use.

Doninger is appealing the ruling in a case which could have pivotal implications for student rights in the internet era.


The Miami Herald says that crime committed by Homeland Security agents is so pervasive that the head of the agency had to remind everybody there that it's "unacceptable." Criminal, even.

Uh, yeah.

No mention was made about killing babies. I guess that wasn't crime, just negligence.

Either way, Homeland Security was quick to assure us all that this isn't due to departmental culture or anything -- it's just individual criminal behavior involving payoffs for drug smuggling and the like.

So that's OK, then.

From one of the remaining bastions of actual journalism in this nation The Rolling Stone investigates the practice of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the nation to clap their hands and believe in terrorists. "The expenditure of such massive resources to find would-be terrorists inevitably requires results. Plots must be uncovered. Sleeper cells must be infiltrated. Another attack must be prevented --or, at least, be seen to be prevented."

Well, who could have foreseen that?

It's a great scam -- these task forces find misfits and malcontents, then suggest wacky terrorist plots, fund them, act like their friends -- and when they take an actual step like buying a hand grenade, the task force flings open the floodgates, hold a press conference on the "chilling terror plot", and hey presto! Terrorism thwarted!

Except ... without the task force, there wouldn't have been a plot, just some homeless guy mumbling on the street. There are no Al Qaeda sleeper cells in America; every single one you may have seen on the news has been a sting. Every one.

You're paying for them.

Feel safer yet?

Nobody saw this coming! Fox News in Kansas City (the local stations do some actual news reporting) put in a FOIA request for a list of claims for items stolen from luggage now that TSA has to have a key. $31 million over three years. Modus operandi: steal good stuff, then put the luggage on another flight so it won't be obvious where the theft occurred.

TSA says mostly it's just due to people forgetting that they left stuff at home.

Feeling safer yet?

Teen-Age Gulags?

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Detainees thrown naked in to cells and forced to eat their own vomit, rape, shackling.

 Sound like Abu Ghraib or Gitmo?  Actually it's what's been happening at dozens of juvenile corrections centers across the US. (Thanks to Raw Story via the AP) 

The right formerly known as free assembly

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Now known as The "Designated Public Assembly" area (aka Out of Sight).

Pioneer Press reports on St. Paul's preparations for the Republican National Convention in September. See also Peter Smith's take.

Wikileaks is back in business.

 Was it a pang of conscience, or a sudden jolt of reason. In any case Judge White does the right thing and civil liberty wins.

From CNET-

"The court has the obligation to get it right," White had told attorneys for Bank Julius Baer, or BJB, earlier Friday. "I took an obligation to uphold the Constitution. The court has its own obligation to raise these issues. Contrary to what you say, my obligation is to look down the road and see where this thing is going."

From the "bureaucracy is war by other means" department: The Wall Street Journal tells us that the IRS is investigating the United Church of Christ -- not just one church, the entire denomination of 1.2 million members -- because Obama addressed their convention on the topic of morals in public life.

Surely the IRS wouldn't allow itself to be used as a partisan weapon to attack Obama. Right? If a Republican addressed a national denominational convention, that denomination would also be investigated. Right?

For the lazy, like me: that link goes to an article with a picture of George Bush addressing the Southern Baptist national convention. On political topics. Granted, the article is from 2005, when Bush wasn't running. But the article also states that that address was Bush's fourth annual address to the convention -- and that means he addressed the Southern Baptists while running in 2004. In Indianapolis.

My, oh my. I guess the Southern Baptists should also have their tax-exempt status investigated. (And how.)

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