April 2008 Archives

In the grand tradition of J. Edgar Hoover, who kept dossiers on the sexual habits of politicians and potential political enemies, in order to "out" them when opportune, a Tennessee high school principal had her flunkies put together a list of student romantic couples in order to "keep an eye on them" and cut down on public displays of affection.

Eyewitness News reports:

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union say Daphne Beasley, the principal of Hollis F. Price Middle College High School in South Memphis, went way beyond her role as educator.

The ACLU says in September 2007, Beasley asked her staff to give her the names of students who were couples, heterosexual and homosexual, because she wanted to keep an eye on them to cut down on public displays of affection.

She's accused of publicly posting the names of those students, including two boys, Andrew and Nicholas, who had just started dating.   The ACLU says that in doing so, Beasley revealed their relationship to other students, teachers and even their parents.

In a letter sent Tuesday, April 29, 2008 to Memphis City Schools, the ACLU says the principal's actions violated the students' constitutional rights to equal protection, freedom of expression and association, due process and privacy.

"Our first reaction was wow, this is unbelievable that a principal has gone this far," says ACLU attorney Christine Sun.   "The constitution protects all of us from the government intruding in our private lives when there isn't a reason to do that.  This was morally and legally wrong."

One of the young men, Nicholas, an 11th grader who just made the Dean's List, spoke with Eyewitness News Everywhere.

"It was actually frightening," he says, "to see a list with my name on it where not just other teachers could see but students as well."

U of Michigan professor unfamiliar with Mike's Hard Lemonade orders his son a lemonade at baseball game. After boy is discovered by a security guard sipping the bottle police and child protective services remove boy to foster home.

Detroit Free-Press reports:

If you watch much television, you've probably heard of a product called Mike's Hard Lemonade.

And if you ask Christopher Ratte and his wife how they lost custody of their 7-year-old son, the short version is that nobody in the Ratte family watches much television.

The way police and child protection workers figure it, Ratte should have known that what a Comerica Park vendor handed over when Ratte ordered a lemonade for his boy three Saturdays ago contained alcohol, and Ratte's ignorance justified placing young Leo in foster care until his dad got up to speed on the commercial beverage industry.

Even if, in hindsight, that decision seems a bit, um, idiotic.

Ratte is a tenured professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, which means that, on a given day, he's more likely to be excavating ancient burial sites in Turkey than watching "Dancing with the Stars" -- or even the History Channel, for that matter.

The 47-year-old academic says he wasn't even aware alcoholic lemonade existed when he and Leo stopped at a concession stand on the way to their seats in Section 114.

"I'd never drunk it, never purchased it, never heard of it," Ratte of Ann Arbor told me sheepishly last week. "And it's certainly not what I expected when I ordered a lemonade for my 7-year-old."

But it wasn't until the top of the ninth inning that a Comerica Park security guard noticed the bottle in young Leo's hand.

"You know this is an alcoholic beverage?" the guard asked the professor.

"You've got to be kidding," Ratte replied. He asked for the bottle, but the security guard snatched it before Ratte could examine the label.

Mistake or child neglect?

An hour later, Ratte was being interviewed by a Detroit police officer at Children's Hospital, where a physician at the Comerica Park clinic had dispatched Leo -- by ambulance! -- after a cursory exam.

Leo betrayed no symptoms of inebriation. But the physician and a police officer from the Comerica substation suggested the ER visit after the boy admitted he was feeling a little nauseated.

The Comerica cop estimated that Leo had drunk about 12 ounces of the hard lemonade, which is 5% alcohol. But an ER resident who drew Leo's blood less than 90 minutes after he and his father were escorted from their seats detected no trace of alcohol.

"Completely normal appearing," the resident wrote in his report, "... he is cleared to go home."

But it would be two days before the state of Michigan allowed Ratte's wife, U-M architecture professor Claire Zimmerman, to take their son home, and nearly a week before Ratte was permitted to move back into his own house.

No "Legal Weed" Even if it's Beer

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Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau Extends its Mandate into Regulating Language.

Denver Post Reports:

Vaune Dillmann thought the wording on his bottle caps was just a clever play on the name of the northern California town where he brews his beer.

Federal alcohol regulators thought differently. They have ordered Dillmann to stop selling beer bottles with caps that say "Try Legal Weed." The agency, which regulates the brewing industry, said the wording could "mislead consumers about the characteristics of the alcoholic beverage."

Director Paul Gatza of the Boulder-based Brewers Association, which represents 1,100 craft brewers nationwide, said the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is getting more aggressive.

MSNBC: CIA torture given legal cover

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Unsurprisingly, the American Department of Justice is of the opinion that when it comes to torture, the CIA is not subject to international law.

I suspect this is because the American Department of Justice knows that when it comes to torture, the CIA is in violation of international law, and that the White House knew as much when it was approved.

Read the article.  It's short.  The logic used by the DOJ is ... how can I put this?  Stupid.  Yeah, stupid -- as in, "Do they really think we're so?"  (In case you're wondering, the answer to that is, "They sure hope so.")

Chicago police to get M4 assault rifles - because nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

(Horse and Buggy Mennonite) dairyman forcibly removed from property as six state troopers and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture seize $25k worth of farm equipment.

Counterpunch reports:

On April 25, 2008, in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, Mark Nolt, a Wenger Mennonite (Horse and Buggy Mennonite) dairyman, threatened for months with arrest for selling raw milk without a permit was removed from his property by state troopers.  

Jonas Stoltzfus, a friend, fellow farmer, and Church of the Brethen, was asked by Mr. Nolt to speak for him, and said of the raid yesterday - "Six state troopers and a man with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture trespassed onto his property, and stole $20-25,000 of his product and equipment."   

Mr. Stoltzfus explained that Mr. Nolt did not have a permit because "he chose to turn his permit back in because it did not cover all the products he was selling.  He felt he was being dishonest selling stuff that was not covered by the permit.  He is a man of great integrity."  

"According to reports from neighbors and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, several officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture participated in the raid, and while Mark was being transported by police car to the courthouse, PDA officials confiscated $20,000 to $25,000 worth of dairy products and production equipment. Neighbors reported the farm had been closed and that a large group of officials had gathered, with videos prohibited."

"Mr. Nolt was told that people had gotten sick from eating his food, but no one ever came forward and no proof was ever offered."

"This is a Gestapo raid," Jonas Stotlzfus said, "complete with state troopers, raiding a hard-working farmer selling milk to friends and customers.  And his customers ARE his friends."  Mr. Nolt 

Mr. Stoltzfus said of Mr. Nolt, "he is not going to stop [selling raw milk] til he is ready to stop.  He is the equivalent of that little black lady in Alabama who wouldn't go to the back of the bus.  He is doing the same thing, he won't go to the back of bus."  Mr. Stoltzfus said "she got arrested for that and so did Mr. Nolt.  He ignored [the threat] and kept on selling.  He is a courageous man."  Mr. Stoltzfuz said "Mark believes it is his right to sell, according to the constitution, just like it was Rosa Park's right to sit wherever she wanted on the bus.  Same deal.  There is nothing in the constitution to prevent Mr. Nolt from buying and selling, especially to his friends," Mr. Stoltzfus said.

New Law Bans Playboy or Penthouse for Soldiers

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Make way for the Military Honor and Decency Act

Raw Story Reports

Pro-family" organizations and members of Congress are continuing the push to limit the range of reading materials available to members of the military.

House Rep. Paul Broun (GA-10), with 15 co-sponsors and the support of organizations such as the Alliance Defense Fund and the American Family Association, recently introduced a bill that would strengthen the ban on sales of adult-themed publications on U.S. military installations.

While the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 bans the sale of "sexually explicit material" on property under Department of Defense jurisdiction, the Pentagon doesn't consider certain items explicit enough to take off of base store shelves; a certain percentage of a film or magazine's content would have to be considered "sexually explicit" for sale or rental to be barred.

Rep. Broun has introduced H.R. 5821, also known as the Military Honor and Decency Act, which would close what he calls a loophole that allows the continued distribution of pornography to soldiers, to their moral detriment, with the help of taxpayer funds.

"As a Marine, I am deeply concerned for the welfare of our troops and their mission," Broun said on April 17. "Allowing the sale of pornography on military bases has harmed military men and women by: escalating the number of violent, sexual crimes; feeding a base addiction; eroding the family as the primary building block of society; and denigrating the moral standing of our troops both here and abroad. Our troops should not see their honor sullied so that the moguls behind magazines like Playboy and Penthouse can profit. The 'Military Honor and Decency Act' will right a bureaucratic--and moral--wrong."

Pennsylvania man criminally charged for "harrassing" government officials by lodging too many complaints against local cement plant for air and noise pollution.
WTAE- Pittsburg reports:

Marshall Pappert admits that he has been a pain to government officials from Bridgeville to Harrisburg.But Pappert says that if those officials had to live where he lives, they'd be complaining, too.While he expected to get a fight, or to be told off, or even ignored, Pappert says he never expected to get arrested.
Every week, he sends a handful of letters to government officials, complaining about a neighbor who lives across Union Street in Bridgeville.The neighbor is Silhol Builders Supply, a manufacturer of ready-mix concrete. Pappert and his neighbors say the noise, dust and heavy trucks have all become unbearable to live with."They start at 2 a.m., sometimes 3, and it just wakes us up and it annoys us," Union Street resident Francesca Reyes said."The number of trucks coming by per day has increased three times, four times," Union Street resident Ron Gibson said."It's so you can't even have the windows open because it's all that dust comes in the windows," Bridgeville resident Josephine Kawalkin said. "You look at the windowsills; they're all full of dust."These neighbors say they appointed Pappert, a master plumber who was disabled in an electrical accident, as their point man to complain to the borough and beyond."I sent videos and letters and just about everything I could to just about every government agency I could think of," Pappert said...

The breaking point came when Pappert left three voice mail messages at the office of borough Manager Lori Collins."I'm asking you as a Bridgeville resident of 56 years to resign and get off of your position. Do the right thing," Pappert said in one message to Collins.His messages accused the borough manager of going back on a promise to collect dust samples from homes and have them tested."You never did that. You said you were going to come over here with (Solicitor) Richard Ferris within a week. You told me that you were going to take a silicate sample, and that was it. And for four months, you left me wondering why you didn't," Pappert said.Bogats said Pappert's messages gave him cause for concern because of "his voice tone, his voice influx, the anger that was present in his voice."Bogats arrested Pappert on a charge of harassment, which is a criminal summary offense.
(Thanks to the Agitator)

Bureau looking for more power to tap into ISP traffic data.
CNET reports:

The FBI on Wednesday called for new legislation that would allow federal police to monitor the Internet for "illegal activity."

The suggestion from FBI Director Robert Mueller, which came during a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing, appears to go beyond a current plan to monitor traffic on federal-government networks. Mueller seemed to suggest that the bureau should have a broad "omnibus" authority to conduct monitoring and surveillance of private-sector networks as well.

The surveillance should include all Internet traffic, Mueller said, "whether it be .mil, .gov, .com--whichever network you're talking about."

And CNET reports here

The FBI director and a Republican congressman sketched out a far-reaching plan this week for warrantless surveillance of the Internet.

During a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing, the FBI's Robert Mueller and Rep. Darrell Issa of California talked about what amounts to a two-step approach. Step 1 involves asking Internet service providers to open their networks to the FBI voluntarily; step 2 would be a federal law forcing companies to do just that.

Both have their problems, legal and practical, but let's look at step 1 first. Issa suggested that Internet providers could get "consent from every single person who signed up to operate under their auspices" for federal police to monitor network traffic for attempts to steal personal information and national secrets. Mueller said "legislation has to be developed" for "some omnibus search capability, utilizing filters that would identify the illegal activity as it comes through and give us the ability to pre-empt" it.

These are remarkable statements. The clearest reading of them points to deep packet inspection of network traffic--akin to the measures Comcast took against BitTorrent and to what Phorm in the United Kingdom has done, in terms of advertising--plus additional processing to detect and thwart any "illegal activity."
PA. School allows military recruiters free reign but declares brochure offering alternative options off-limits.

GoBlueRidgeNet reports

North Carolina Peace Action has accused the Wilkes School system of violating its constitutional rights and may pursue legal action.

The group says the school system did not provide its members the same access military recruiters get in the high school.

The organization intends to assist students in comparing military versus non-military career options. A letter drafted by Charlotte attorney Charles Johnson to the school board accuses school officials of giving military recruiters an unfair advantage by allowing them fewer restrictions. The letter says Wilkes schools have until May 1 to provide fair access before legal action may be pursued.

Brochures the group has attempted to distribute include "Joining the Military is Hazrdous to Your Education" and "Do You Know Enough to Enlist?"

Group members were told prior to this semester that the brochures could not be distributed at the high schools. They say this violates their first amendment rights.

Quite a margin of error, that.

They waited for hours, singing spirituals, praying and chanting for justice. In a flash, the crowd gathered outside a Queens courthouse Friday erupted in anger and grief.

Men cursed and shouted. Women wailed and covered their faces. "Oh, no! No!" they yelled as word spread that three police officers had been cleared of all charges in the 50-bullet shooting that took Sean Bell's life on his wedding day in 2006.

Trent Benefield, a friend of Bell's who was wounded in the hail of gunfire, staggered down the courthouse steps with a look of angry disbelief on his face, a friend's arms tightly wrapped around his shoulders.

"Not guilty. Not guilty. It's real," Benefield said, while dozens of people wearing Bell's face on hats, T-shirts and buttons burst into sobs.

Angry supporters of the Bell family shouted at police officers and journalists outside the courthouse, but within an hour the crowd of about 200 people had settled down and dispersed. Despite some pushing and shoving in the crowd, no arrests were made.

The protests were muted compared with past verdicts where officers were cleared in police shootings of black men, perhaps a result of improved race relations and the complicated nature of the Bell case. Bell was black, but so were two of the three officers charged in the shooting, including the one who fired the first shot.

Civil rights leaders demanded a federal investigation, but supporters of the officers said justice had been served.

"How do I spell relief? N-O-T G-U-I-L-T-Y," said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, a police union.

Bell, 23, was killed outside a seedy strip club in Queens in 2006 as he was leaving his bachelor party with two friends. The officers _ undercover detectives who were investigating reports of prostitution at the club _ said they thought one of the men had a gun.

The slaying heightened tensions in the city and stoked long-standing allegations of racism and excessive use of force on the part of New York City's police. Police had assigned extra officers to the courthouse Friday and had helicopters in the air to help deal with any unrest.

Justice Arthur Cooperman's verdict in the non-jury trial elicited gasps as well as tears of joy and sorrow. Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 of the shots, wept at the defense table, while the mother of victim Sean Bell cried in the packed courtroom. Shouts of "Murderers! Murderers!" and "KKK!" rang out in front of the building......

The defense painted the victims as drunken thugs who the officers believed were armed and dangerous. Prosecutors sought to convince the judge that the victims had been minding their own business, and that the officers were inept, trigger-happy cowboys.

Bell's companions _ Benefield and Joseph Guzman _ were both wounded; Guzman still has four bullets lodged in his body. Both testified. Guzman, a burly ex-convict, grew combative during cross-examination, and said of Isnora: "This dude is shooting like he's crazy, like he's out of his mind."

None of the officers took the stand. Instead, the judge heard transcripts of the officers telling a grand jury that they believed they had good reason to use deadly force.

The officers said that as the club closed around 4 a.m., they heard Guzman say, "Yo, go get my gun" _ something Bell's friends denied.

Isnora claimed that after he warned the men to halt, Bell pulled away in his car, bumped him and rammed an unmarked police van that converged on the scene. The detective also said Guzman made a sudden move as if he were reaching for a gun.

Benefield and Guzman testified that there were no orders from the police.

With tires screeching, glass breaking and bullets flying, the officers said they believed they were the ones under fire. Oliver responded by emptying his semiautomatic pistol, reloading, and emptying it again. Isnora fired 11 rounds, and Cooper four. Two other officers who fired weren't charged.

When the smoke had cleared, there was no weapon inside Bell's blood-splattered car.

Montreal police fined student Brendan Jones for sitting on a ledge in the park. Fined him $628 mind you -- the fact that he'd been taking pictures of them harassing some people didn't have anything to do with it, of course.

Doesn't it seem as though the recent ubiquity of camera phones is making this kind of story really common? The police sure don't like being watched, do they?

From Zion, Illinois: the story of 11 seniors who dressed up as a gorilla and ten bananas, ran around in the halls of their school, and got suspended. Because God forbid they should get the idea that spontaneous humor could be accepted in the larger society.

Get nabbed for or even on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute and your car belongs to the city.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports:

If you're caught with a prostitute, local authorities plan to seize your car.

That was the message conveyed at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, where officials with the Memphis Police and the District Attorney General's Office announced the arrests of 64 people in a three-day prostitution sting.

As a result of those arrests, authorities will attempt to seize 42 cars: 39 from those charged with soliciting prostitutes, as well as one from a suspect facing drug charges and two because the owners had revoked driver's licenses.

"They were used in the commission of a crime. Under state law, they are subject to seizure," Dist. Atty. Gen. Bill Gibbons said, when asked if the seizures seemed excessive. "I think it's a good law. But if you think it's too stringent, talk to your legislators."

Added Memphis Police director Larry Godwin: "I'd say seize every dadgum vehicle and send a message."

AP reports:

A publisher that distributes books on the legal rights of prisoners sued the chief of the state's prison system Wednesday, claiming he is banning its publications in Massachusetts prisons.

Prison Legal News, a nonprofit publisher, alleges that Department of Correction Commissioner Harold Clarke and other prison officials refuse to add it to a list of approved vendors who can send books to prisoners.

The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday seeks unspecified damages and an order prohibiting the Department of Correction from maintaining its approved vendor policy. The lawsuit claims the policy is unconstitutional.

Prison Legal News, an independent, mail-order publisher based in Seattle, publishes a monthly journal of court decisions and other news affecting the rights of prisoners. It also distributes books on inmates' legal rights, including "No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System" and "Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case."

The corporation distributed books in Massachusetts prisons until 2003, when a policy was adopted that allowed only approved vendors to send books to prisoners, said Paul Wright, the editor of Prison Legal News. Wright said he has written letters to Clarke and other prison officials asking to be put on the approved list.

"We haven't gotten anywhere with them," Wright said. "I think some of it is the hostility - that they don't want prisoners to know what their legal rights are."

Unanimous ruling (concurred in even by the "liberals") says police can define probable cause at their discretion in searching for evidence of criminal activity regardless of whether their original arrest of suspect was legal under state law.

CNN reports:
The Supreme Court offered unanimous support for police Wednesday by allowing drug evidence gathered after an arrest that violated state law to be used at trial, an important search-and-seizure case turning on the constitutional limits of "probable cause."

"When officers have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest, and to search the suspect in order to safeguard evidence and ensure their own safety," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

David Lee Moore was stopped by Portsmouth, Virginia, officers five years ago for driving his vehicle on a suspended license. Under state law in such incidents, only a summons is to be issued and the motorist is to be allowed to go. Instead, detectives detained Moore for almost an hour, arrested him, then searched him and found cocaine.

At trial, Moore's lawyers tried to suppress the evidence, but the state judge allowed it, even though the court noted the arrest violated state law. A police detective, asked why the man was arrested, replied, "Just our prerogative."

AKA Demonstrating peacefully against an illegal war.

From Rutgers Walkout Coalition blog:
Free the Rutgers 3

Three Rutgers students, Erik Straub, a Rutgers College junior and member of Tent State University/Students for a Democratic Society, Suzan Sanal, a Douglass College junior and member of Rutgers Against the War, and Arwa Ibrahim, a Rutgers College senior, have been issued summons for activities that took place during the March 27, 2008 Rutgers Walk Out Against the War. These three students will be issuing a statement at a press conference immediately preceding their first trial date this coming Wednesday, April 23rd at 11:00AM during the Tent State University event located on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ. The press conference will take place at the Vietnam War Memorial on Voorhees Mall.

The Walkout brought together about 600 Rutgers students and supporters, who walked out on their daily routine and rallied in protest of the war in Iraq. The Walkout culminated in a march, with an estimated 300 participants, that took a path through the streets of downtown New Brunswick and onto nearby highway Route 18.

Despite the fact that the action involved hundreds of students, police singled out only three for prosecution. Furthermore, while for the second year in a row the protest yielded no injuries, no arrests, and no incidents of vandalism or property damage, the New Brunswick Police Department is charging the three students with 'recklessly creating ... a hazardous or physically dangerous condition by an act which serves no legitimate purpose.'

So says the LA City Board of Supervisors in an affront to the letter and spirit of not only freedom of enterprise but, as C.Thi Nguyen compellingly argues below, to the spirit of free assembly.

From the LA Times: 

In defense of the great taco truck

All my best L.A. memories are about girls or taco trucks. There's something shockingly vivid about having great tacos out of a truck -- standing outside, wind in your hair, chowing down with all the homies, hipsters, off-duty cops, nurses, professors and homeless dudes. People are pretty cheerful around a taco truck; they smile, they talk. On a good night, the crowd around a taco truck is the closest thing we have to a unified Los Angeles soul.

Maybe it's because of what my friend, food theorist Kathy Shin, calls "the joy of festival food." It feels a bit like a party out there -- the mix of intense flavors, milling people, bright lights in the night. Or maybe it's the sense of camaraderie -- that nobody knows who you are or how much you make, you're all there in the heat or the cold for the same reason -- good food, for cheap. Or maybe it's just because some of the trucks offer the most gloriously energetic food in this city -- tacos that are like bullets of spiky, oniony happiness.

Which is why what the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has done terrifies me. On Wednesday, the supervisors passed a harsh set of regulations for unincorporated county areas. Parking a taco truck in one spot for longer than an hour is now punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, or six months in jail, or both. Developers and restaurant owners, particularly in East L.A., are pushing for tougher enforcement too. These changes, say some truck owners, will probably put them out of business.

This is a cultural disaster. Forget the Getty -- it's the taco trucks, and their crowds, that are the true culture of L.A. Attacking the trucks is like New York going after its hot dog stands or Memphis banning barbecue pits.
(Thanks to Anthony Gregory)

Meaning Customs can inspect, search and peruse its contents as they see fit without need for evidence of wrongdoing or even suspicions (reasonable or not) of wrongdoing.

San Francisco Chronicle reports

Customs agents at U.S. airports don't need any evidence of wrongdoing to search the contents of passengers' laptop computers, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

Reinstating child pornography evidence against a passenger at Los Angeles International Airport, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a computer is no different from a suitcase, a car or any other piece of property subject to search at an international border.

Although police need probable cause - specific evidence of criminal activity - to search someone on the street, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that no such evidence is necessary for a border search. Courts have also ruled that an international airport is the equivalent of a border.

Border agents would need grounds for suspicion before conducting a body search, but a "piece of property simply does not implicate the same dignity and privacy concerns as highly intrusive searches of the person," the court said. Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote the 3-0 decision.

The ruling overturned a federal judge's decision barring the computer evidence and has implications for a suit filed in San Francisco two months ago by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy-rights group, and the Asian Law Caucus.

Arizona House Appropriations Committee tacks measures onto non-educational homeland security appropriations bill barring curricula, teaching practices, textbooks and student organizations that "overtly encourage dissent from American values".

The Arizona Republic reports:

Arizona public schools would be barred from any teachings considered counter to democracy or Western civilization under a proposal endorsed Wednesday by a legislative panel.

Additionally, the measure would prohibit students of the state's universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or part on the race of their members, such as the Black Business Students Association at Arizona State University or Native Americans United at Northern Arizona University. Those groups would be forbidden from operating on campus.

The brainchild of Rep. Russell Pearce, the measure appeared as an amendment to Senate Bill 1108, which originally would have made minor changes to the state's Homeland Security advisory councils. The House Appropriations Committee approved the new proposal on a 9-6 vote.

Pearce, a Mesa Republican, said his target isn't diversity instruction, but schools that use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate students in what he characterized as anti-American or seditious thinking. The measure is at least partially a response to a controversy surrounding an ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which critics have said is unpatriotic and teaches revolution.

SB 1108 states, "A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship. Public tax dollars used in public schools should not be used to denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization."

For schools that violate the anti-Western-teachings provision, the bill provides the state superintendent of public instruction with the authority to withhold a portion of state funding.

High School Principal Turns Pot War Vigilante

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Uses cell phone confiscated from student to do a drug sting on student from another school.

AP reports:

CONCORD, N.H. -- A high school senior who was charged in a drug sting set up by a rival school's principal is suing district officials over his lengthy suspension.

Concord High School student John Huckins, 17, was arrested last month on a charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. He has not entered a plea, but school officials suspended him for the rest of the school year.

Bishop Brady High School Principal Jean Barker set up a meeting with Huckins on a cell phone she confiscated from one of her students, according to police reports.

She received a text message from Huckins stating, "Yo, you need a bag?" according to police reports.

Barker pretended to be the phone's owner and told him to meet outside the back door of her Catholic school, then called police.

When Huckins showed up March 6, he was arrested with a quarter-ounce of marijuana, police said.

Barker did not return phone messages to The Associated Press. She defended her actions to The Concord Monitor, saying Huckins' willingness to bring drugs onto school property placed her school at risk.

Huckins' attorney, Mark Howard, disagreed.

"It is a crime in the state of New Hampshire to elicit a drug offense if you are not either a police officer or working under the direction of a police officer," Howard said.

Police refused to comment.

While his criminal case is pending, Huckins has sued the Concord School District, Superintendent Chris Rath and his principal, Gene Connelly, over his suspension. Huckins is attending classes until a judge reaches a decision.

Thin-skinned city fathers and humorless chief of  police in Whitewater, Wisconsin on vendetta to shut down FreeWhitewater website and the (so far) invisible muckraker who posts on it.

The LaCrosse Tribune reports:

It's a mystery that has gripped Whitewater city government since July: Who is John Adams, the anonymous blogger at www.freewhitewater.com?

The Web site, Free Whitewater, was launched last spring and takes aim at the "narrow-minded" leaders of the community of 14,000 about 45 miles southeast of Madison.
Its targets range from the aesthetics of Whitewater's main streets to a controversial roundup of suspected illegal immigrants at the Star Packaging plant.

"Adams" charges in his blog that Whitewater is run by "a small, obstinate, and poorly educated local elite" who are hostile toward the 10,000 students at UW-Whitewater and the region's growing Mexican-American population.

He is critical of the School District and other local officials, calling a former municipal judge who was convicted of lewd behavior last year a "vulgar laughingstock"...

According to Whitewater Police Department e-mails obtained by Adams under the state's open records law, the town's chief of police involved at least two detectives, the city's director of public works, its information technology officer and the city clerk -- all working on city time and using taxpayer-funded resources -- to find the identity of a man described as a "suspect" but who had not committed a crime.

In Whitewater, the effort to discover Adams' identity included examining his e-mails and Web site registration, running a license plate check on a man suspected of being Adams (he wasn't), and suggesting city officials conduct surveillance at the dedication of a restored historic landmark on the chance he might be there.

"I think it is someone we want to keep an eye on ...," Whitewater Police Detective Tina Winger wrote in an e-mail to Coan. "Seems like an anti-government radical to me."

The investigation culminated in a Jan. 4 visit from Coan and Whitewater Police Lt. Tim Gray to the home of Scott, whom Coan said afterward he was "99.9 percent convinced" was the blogger.

In fact, said Adams, who revealed his identity to the Wisconsin State Journal on condition of anonymity, the chief was "100 percent wrong."

Whitewater City Manager Kevin Brunner said he sees nothing wrong with city employees' attempts to expose Adams. He said the efforts took very little time and were aimed at seeking a dialogue with the blogger to address his complaints about the city.

"I think it was a very legitimate use of their time," Brunner said. "I think the impetus was to try to engage in some civil discourse with that person."

But Brunner, who is Whitewater's highest-ranking official, said he couldn't explain why the officials referred to the blogger in e-mails variously as a "suspect," "No. 1 suspect" or "person of interest."

How the mission creeps. From DNA samples of convicted violent criminals to samples of all convicted of a crime to anyone detained by the feds for any reason.

UPI reports:
The U.S. Justice Department says it is going forward with its plan to take DNA samples from anyone in federal custody, not just convicted felons.

The Justice Department officially proposed the plan this week, requesting the ability to collect DNA samples from individuals currently incarcerated in the federal legal system, The New York Times reported Saturday. The genetic information goes into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's national database.

The new regulations could potentially involve collecting DNA samples from 1.2 million people, a 1,200 percent increase from current levels, and involve mostly illegal immigrants, the Times said.

From the drug war is stranger than fiction dept.
Kafka couldn't top this. You'll have to read it for yourself, but here's the short skinny.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

For 40 years, Meredith and Luther Ricks did everything the right way. They worked hard, saved carefully and raised a family in their modest Lima home. They were poised to enjoy their retirement years in peace.

Despite their four decades of hard work, however, an absurdly unjust law has turned their hope for the American Dream into an outrageous nightmare at the hands of the Cleveland FBI.

Both of the Ricks spent their careers at the Ohio Steel Foundry, eschewing lavish spending to save for a comfortable retirement. Not trusting banks, Meredith and Luther kept their life savings in a safe inside the house.

Last summer, two violent intruders broke into the Rickses' house. Luther and his son fought with the burglars. After his son was stabbed, Luther broke free, got his gun and saved the family by shooting one of the intruders and scaring the other off.

When Lima police arrived, the Ricks' nightmare should have been over - but it was just beginning.

The police entered the house and discovered the family safe. Because a small amount of marijuana was inside the home - used by Luther to ease his painful arthritis, hip replacement and shingles - the officers decided to confiscate Meredith and Luther's entire life savings, more than $400,000.

Shortly afterward, the FBI got involved - not to help the stricken family, but to claim the money for the federal government.

(Thanks to Jonathan Turley)

Don't call it free speech, Lake Superior State University campus administration says. Putting up  satirical cartoons with a pointedly unpopular point of view (right-wing conservative in this case) contributes to a "hostile environment".

Inside Higher Ed reports;

Getting one's own office can be a rite of passage right up there with defending a dissertation or receiving tenure -- and many professors' lairs are reflections of their own attitudes and beliefs. Usually, it takes just a quick glance at the door, as anyone who's taken a stroll down the hall of an academic building can attest: What a professor finds amusing, outrageous or just plain interesting is there for all to see.

At a public university, such common displays of individual preference would presumably fall under the protections of the First Amendment. But not when such displays are offensive to others, according to officials at Lake Superior State University, which threatened to reprimand a tenured professor whose door boasted cartoons and other images of a conservative political bent.

. Items included a photo of Ronald Reagan, pictures mocking Hillary Clinton, a sign posting a "Notice of the Weekly Meeting of the White, Male, Heterosexual Faculty and Staff Association (WMHFSA)," and various cartoons about abortion, Islamic terrorism and other topics. One depicts two hooded women looking over a photo album. One says, "And that's my youngest son, Hakim. He'll be martyring in the fall." The other replies, "They blow up so fast." The university argues that the postings contribute to a hostile environment and therefore do not fall under First Amendment protections.


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What do you have when you put National Security Letters, which allow the FBI enormous flexibility in doing an end around the traditional probable cause warrant, and the technology to provide an on-demand RSS-like feed of all telecommunications emanating from carriers and ISPs?

The Washington Post reports:

Since a 1994 law required telecoms to build electronic interception capabilities into their systems, the FBI has created a network of links between the nation's largest telephone and Internet firms and about 40 FBI offices and Quantico, according to interviews and documents describing the agency's Digital Collection System. The documents were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group in San Francisco that specializes in digital-rights issues.

The bureau says its budget for the collection system increased from $30 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2008. Information lawfully collected by the FBI from telecom firms can be shared with law enforcement and intelligence-gathering partners, including the National Security Agency and the CIA. Likewise, under guidelines approved by the attorney general or a court, some intercept data gathered by intelligence agencies can be shared with law enforcement agencies.

"When you're building something like this deeply into the telecommunications infrastructure, when it becomes so technically easy to do, the only thing that stands between legitimate use and abuse is the complete honesty of the persons and agencies using it and the ability to have independent oversight over the system's use," said Lauren Weinstein, a communications systems engineer and co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a group that studies Web issues. "It's who watches the listeners."

Different versions of the system are used for criminal wiretaps and for foreign intelligence investigations inside the United States. But each allows authorized FBI agents and analysts, with point-and-click ease, to receive e-mails, instant messages, cellphone calls and other communications that tell them not only what a suspect is saying, but where he is and where he has been, depending on the wording of a court order or a government directive. Most of the wiretapping is done at field offices.

Wiretaps to obtain the content of a phone call or an e-mail must be authorized by a court upon a showing of probable cause. But "transactional data" about a communication -- from whom, to whom, how long it lasted -- can be obtained by simply showing that it is relevant to an official probe, including through an administrative subpoena known as a national security letter (NSL). According to the Justice Department's inspector general, the number of NSLs issued by the FBI soared from 8,500 in 2000 to 47,000 in 2005.

From the excessive force files.
Neighbors in a Sacramento County, Calif. neighborhood call 911 to report a driver they believe to be intoxicated. An Officer approaches the suspected drunk driver's vehicle which is PARKED by the side of the road. When the officer attempts to remove the suspect from the car the driver begins to try to drive away the officer draws a semi-automatic handgun and fires multiple shots at the driver killing the man.The car being driven by the wounded, or possibly already dead DUI suspect, subsequently hits 4 other vehicles.

From KCRA.com
Thanks to Jonathan Turley
Yep. Just when you thought you'd heard it all. But I guess if your jones is civil liberties absurdities the drug war never disappoints.

Westminster, Colorado
Channel 9 news reports

Adams School District 50 is defending its decision to punish a third grader for sniffing a Sharpie marker.
Eight-year-old Eathan Harris was originally suspended from Harris Park Elementary School for three days. Principal Chris Benisch reduced the suspension to one day after complaints from Harris' parents.

Harris used a black Sharpie marker to color a small area on the sleeve of his sweatshirt. A teacher sent him to the principal when she noticed him smelling the marker and his clothing.

"It smelled good," Harris said. "They told me that's wrong."

Eathan's father, John Harris, says the school overreacted for treating Eathan as if he was huffing, or inhaling, marker fumes.

"I think it's outlandish," John Harris said. "It's ridiculous."

Eathan shyly shook his head "no" when a reporter asked if he knew about "huffing."

Benisch stands by his decision to suspend Harris, saying it sends a clear message about substance abuse.
Thanks to LewRockwell.com

From the "who says secular humanists can't be stupid too" dept.

An Art class where they've never heard of Picasso, Michelangelo, Blake or Ernst, apparently. High School prohibits depiction of "any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs of any kind" in student artwork.

AP reports

A Tomah High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference.

The lawsuit alleges other students were allowed to draw "demonic" images and asks a judge to declare a class policy prohibiting religion in art unconstitutional.

"We hear so much today about tolerance," said David Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal-advocacy group representing the student. "But where is the tolerance for religious beliefs? The whole purpose of art is to reflect your own personal experience. To tell a student his religious beliefs can legally be censored sends the wrong message."

Tomah School District Business Manager Greg Gaarder said the district hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined to comment for this article.

According to the lawsuit, the student's art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words "John 3:16 A sign of love" in his drawing.

His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project.

Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. The lawsuit claims Millin told the teen he had signed away his constitutional rights when he signed the policy at the beginning of the semester.

Pentagon Using FBI for Domestic Spying

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And they said our agencies didn't know how to collaborate:

Siobhan Gorman reports in the Wall Street Journal:

"The Defense Department used the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has broader domestic spying powers, to gather information on people in the U.S., according to Pentagon documents.

The FBI can obtain a wide range of information from companies, including financial, phone and Internet data on individuals, using administrative subpoenas -- called national security letters -- without obtaining court approval. The Pentagon's use of such administrative subpoenas is limited to collecting financial information.

Melissa Goodman, a national security lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued for the release of the documents, said the organization is concerned the Pentagon "is evading the limits on its own power by turning around and asking the FBI to get information for it."

But not to worry. The Justice Department (they of the formula: "It's a constitutional republic unless it's deemed a miltary matter, and, of course, it's always a military matter"), is all over it.

Or, as Lee Tien, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group is quoted in the story as saying: "All you have is vampires guarding the blood bank."

Of course, all the cool kids today are talking about the Yoo memo from March of 2003, just released today, in which that lovely specimen declared it legal for the United States to torture people. But the EFF has found a surprising little footnote in that document. Turns out the Administration is of the opinion that as long as the military does something in the United States to "fight terrorism", the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply.

The Fourth Amendment doesn't apply.

That means that as far as this President is concerned, the military has every right to come in and search your house without a warrant.

Way to go, America! At this rate, we'll be the Soviet Union by Christmas!

The military wants names, birth dates, phone numbers and academic pursuits of college students that can be used to identify people with knowledge and interests that are particularly useful to the military and is ready to play hardball to get them, regardless of schools or students views on the subject.

The Marine Times reports:

The Defense Department has announced a new get-tough policy with colleges and universities that interfere with the work of military recruiters and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.

Under rules that will take effect April 28, defense officials said they want the exact same access to student directories that is provided to all other prospective employers.

Students can opt out of having their information turned over to the military only if they opt out of having their information provided to all other recruiters, but schools cannot have policies that exclude only the military, defense officials said in a March 28 notice of the new policy in the Federal Register...

he new policy also no longer lets schools ban military recruiters from working on campuses solely because a school determines that no students have expressed interest in joining the military. If other employers are invited, the military has to have the same access.

Federal funding can be cut off if colleges and universities do not give recruiters and ROTC programs campus access. While student financial assistance is not at risk, other federal aid, especially research funding, can disappear if a school does not cooperate.

The Pentagon can declare colleges or universities anti-ROTC if they prohibit or prevent a Senior ROTC program from being established, maintained or efficiently operated.

The new policy is, in part, the result of a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal government's ability to use funding as a means of forcing equal access for military recruiters and ROTC units on campuses.

Newsday reports

An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.

Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as "graphic anti-war images." Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis - 4,000 and 1 million - and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

Police said in a release last night that Zirkel was handing out anti-war pamphlets to mallgoers and that mall security told him to stop and turn his shirt inside out. Zirkel refused to turn his shirt inside out and wouldn't leave, police said. Security placed him on "civilian arrest" and called police. When police arrived, Zirkel passively resisted attempts to bring him to a police car, the release said.

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