Carlos Miller – First Amendment Hero

January 21, 2013

If you don’t already know who Carlos Miller is, you should. You are more free because Miller won’t let newsgathering and photography die under the wheels of a paranoid nation, shrieking with fear at imaginary terrorists, and hiring policies in police departments that seem to favor people with personality disorders that would make Eric Cartman blush.

Miller’s crusade began a few years ago, when he photographed some Miami-Dade officers standing around on the street. Arrested for his “crime,” Miller beat the rap. Then, he did it again, and was convicted, but won his case on appeal, despite representing himself. (source). Since then, Miller has refused to back down when challenged by police officers, TSA Agents, and rent-a-cops who think that they are above the law. He recently beat another charge, over dishonest testimony by the Miami-Dade cops. (source)

Anyone with even a half a brain knows that Miller’s conduct is legal. However, as his case requiring an appeal shows us, judges don’t aways give a shit about the law. And, when a judge and a prosecutor team up to spank a citizen for not respecting authority, that citizen can face serious repercussions. Miller faced incarceration and financial ruin, and does again and again, when he refuses to back down in the face of a pig screaming “respect my authoritah.”

Do you have balls that big?

Last night, Miller was at it again. Taking pictures. For this “crime,” a bunch of gutter swine decided that it was time to punish him. He has a history with “50 state security.” He is involved in a lawsuit against them for violating his rights. Funny enough, they decided to rough him up last night.

As a First Amendment lawyer, I occasionally get mail from people saying really nice things about what I do. I stick up for the Constitution. I stick up for people whose rights have been violated. But, I do so in a pretty cushy way. Yeah, I wind up not getting paid for my work a lot of times, since I can’t turn down a good First Amendment story. Sometimes I even get threatened by opposing counsel when I outclass them in terms of professionalism and ability. Sometimes, I agree to help someone on a pro bono basis, and they turn on me because they want to prove that no good deed goes unpunished. Back in 2006 or so, I had a redneck display a gun to me, to warn me that representing a “dirty bookstore” in his town ran afoul of his christian principles. I have gotten my share of threatening phone calls and emails.

But, I’ve never been locked in handcuffs for the First Amendment.

I’ve never faced financial ruin and imprisonment for the cause.

I’ve never shed actual blood for it.

Miller has done all of the above.

Why?

Because someone has to.

Someone has to say “no” to the flunkies and the petty little tyrants who incrementally chip away at our liberties. Someone has to have the courage to put his liberty and his personal safety on the line. That someone is Carlos Miller.

And Carlos Miller is my hero. He should be yours too.


It’s a Beautiful Thing, the Destruction of Words.

December 4, 2012

First Amendment BAMF The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (“FIRE”) defends individual rights at American Colleges and Universities from the barrage of attacks on free speech and free expression. Every month, FIRE features an institution of higher learning that should be ashamed of itself for enacting a speech code that is, at best, terrible. This month’s honoree is the University of North Dakota (“UND”) for its delightfully well-written policy that defines harassment as:

[U]nacceptable behavior, which can range from violence and bullying to more subtle behavior such as ignoring an individual at work or study. It subjects an individual or a group to unwelcome attention, intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, offense or loss of privacy. It is unwanted by the recipient and continues after an objection is made.

Source.

Universities have long been thought to be the last gleaming hope of free thought and expression. It is also generally accepted that college campuses are bastions of left leaning philosophies that champion speech and expression. Imagine the shock and chagrin, then, when one discovers that UND isn’t the only member of the “liberal” American higher education system that quite possibly poses more of a threat to First Amendment rights than the government. But before you conservatives and libertarians start squealing and pointing the shame finger at the nearest hippie, sit down, shut up, and read “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate”, by First Amendment super BAMF and FIRE president Greg Lukianoff.

In his book, Lukianoff gives a very real and very scary glimpse into contemporary American academia. No longer a shining beacon of differing viewpoints and the relentless pursuit of intellectual honesty, the typical American university is a quagmire of self-serving administrative officials, apathetic faculty, and a woefully ignorant student body. Lukianoff deftly sheds light on the evolution of censorship policies that have been unilaterally enacted by weak-minded bureaucrats who want to stamp out criticism and dissent. Policies that are enforced without a glimmer of due process for the offender and without so much as a peep from the student body. Policies that may be in response to legislation at both the state and Federal level.

As someone once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next”. If so, we’re in for a world of hurt. Unlearning Liberty is a must-read for every First Amendment defender out there. It will scare you, piss you off, and maybe even make you cry, but hopefully it will also inspire you to wake up, stand up, and speak up.


Steve Swander

November 24, 2012

Steve Swander, R.I.S.

We lower the Satyricon’s flag to half mast today in honor of Steve Swander, the Immediate Past President of the First Amendment Lawyers’ Association. Mesothelioma took his life at 3:45 AM today.

His practice was based in Fort Worth, Texas, where the local weekly described him as an expert at fighting authorities in the State of Texas over “morals laws.” (source) Swander was a much-respected soldier in the ongoing battle to preserve civil liberties and freedom of expression. (source) And, he did so in Texas – hostile territory for someone on his side of the fight. (source)

The Dallas Observer wrote of him:

Swander is a professorial type who speaks carefully and almost winces when he comes to the more colorful details of what obviously is a specialty, the relationship between body parts and free speech. He spiels off the history of clear latex pasties: the court decision that caused the clubs to switch to non-latex pasties in order to change their status to Class A dance halls and escape location limits, followed by a new ordinance in 1997 focusing on the breast beneath the nipple, struck down by the court, thereby allowing clubs to operate with non-flesh-colored pasties as dance halls rather than sexually oriented businesses. (source)

That might not be a typical selection for a eulogy, but Swander wasn’t a typical guy. I see that quote and a big smile breaks out across my face, as I remember Steve.

And, it isn’t just me… my inbox is bursting with expressions of respect and sorrow from fellow members of the First Amendment Bar. If you knew Steve, this would be of no surprise to you. If you didn’t know Steve, and you saw the list of names in the “from” lines on those emails, you would think that a Supreme Court justice had just passed away. This was a bona-fide First Amendment Bad Ass.

Normally, I wouldn’t share FALA emails with the rest of the world, but I think I can make a limited exception in this case.

The current president of the organization, Daniel Aaronson, wrote about observing Steve as he prepared to take over the FALA helm.

I saw a man who conducted himself with a quiet calm grace that made all respect him. I will truly miss Steve and on behalf of all of FALA I will take the liberty of saying that we will all miss him.

Thank you Steve for your dedication to the First Amendment, to our organization and for just being you. You will be remembered.

The usually irreverent Paul Cambria, provided this particularly somber expression of respect:

When a person dies there is a set of numbers on the left of their tombstone representing the day their life began then a dash and a set of numbers on the right representing the day their life ended, but the dash represents their life. In Steve’s case that dash was filled with good things, good friends and good accomplishments great guy will be missed by all of us.

In honor of our fallen friend and colleague, I lower the flag to half mast and award Mr. Swander a posthumous First Amendment Bad Ass award.

If there is an afterlife, I am certain that Steve has already gotten to work there making sure that the place is more fun for the rest of us when we arrive. When you get there, if the angels are bare-breasted, and not wearing bikini tops, you can probably thank Steve.

Rest in slack, Steve.


Occupy Wall Street Has Something for Everyone

October 31, 2011

Politics, economic debate, and now hot chicks.

And incredible bad asses:

And even judges with some balls (ok, this was in Nashville)


Philadelphia > New York (when it comes to appreciation for the First Amendment)

October 17, 2011

Say what you want about the merits of the “occupy” movement. Whether you think they are the left-wing tea party, freedom fighters, speaking truth to power, simpleton dirty hippies playing hacky sack, they still have a First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.

And the asshat award winner, Michael Bloomberg, is renting out the NYPD to Citibank, and he takes the position that they are just “taking away jobs.” It doesn’t really sound like the mayor of a place like New York City, does it? But, those dipshit Yankees Fans elected him. They get the mayor they deserve.

Ninety miles to the south, the City administration honors their oaths of office. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and his Police Commissioner, Charles H. Ramsey are our First Amendment Bad Asses.

[Compared to Bloomberg] Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has struck a markedly different tone, saying police will work with demonstrators and assist with marches. Above all, Ramsey has emphasized that officers are bound to protect the demonstrators’ right to protest peacefully. Ramsey has also had the First Amendment read at roll calls and periodically over the police radio system as a reminder. (source)

And, while Philly has charged parade organizers in the past for police and clean up costs, the Mayor’s office is not seeking these costs from anyone involved with Occupy Philadelphia.

“The difference is that these are First Amendment-driven matters as opposed to a parade,” McDonald said. “They have a right to express themselves under provisions of the Constitution, and we simply don’t, as a matter of policy, attempt to charge citizens for their free-speech rights.” (source)

Mike Krauss of PhillyBurbs.com does a much better job than I of comparing the two cities and their Mayors.


Jessica Valenti doesn’t understand the Streisand Effect

July 1, 2011

By J. DeVoy

Imagine if there was an online database of killers, child abusers, bigots, rapists and liars – and they were all women.  Now there is!  Register-Her.com, a project started by Paul Elam, a men’s rights activist and contributor to The Spearhead, uses a wiki-style webpage to consolidate locally and nationally reported facts about women whose documented wrongs range from murder to false rape accusations. [Disclaimer: Like Elam, I also contribute to The Spearhead.]  This is SRS BUSINESS.

One of the first additions to the site as a “bigot” is feministing’s own Jessica Valenti.  Merriam-Webster defines a bigot as “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”  Without dignifying Valenti’s oeuvre with my attention, this sounds accurate.

If a tree falls in the woods, does anyone hear it?  If Jessica Valenti didn’t shriek like a harpy about “misogyny,” would so many others know about Register-Her.com?  Rather than letting this roll off her back with the cool disposition of an empowered, independent blah blah blah… woman, she posted this YouTube (which, admittedly, I have not watched to completion).

Result: More people know about the site.  Also, male advocates are increasingly stepping out of anonymity, contrary to Valenti’s assertions.  Paul Elam’s real name is… Paul Elam!  My name and identity are well known, and I’m on the record opposing anonymity in advocating men’s issues and any other controversial position  — though I understand and respect why others employ it.  Crime & Federalism offers a counterpoint on the issue here.  I rather enjoy this and, as far as I know, the “basement-dwelling virgin” meme has never been attached to me.  In fact, the biggest critics of women I’ve met are people among the best looking and most successful with women that I know.  In contrast, the basement-confined and virginal types tend to supplicate women and resent men who are successful with women, turning on them for the smallest of reasons (like in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn — come on, “forced” oral sex wasn’t a red flag of falsity?).

Just like when Barbara Steisand’s shrill howls – and not even her singing – drew attention to photos of her Pacific mansion online, Jessica Valenti’s plaintive whines drive more eyes to the site.  If she had just shut up, the damage would have been limited mostly to the men who would have found the site anyway – preaching to the choir.  Realizing that the damage was done, Valenti is now trying to scrub the internet of any trace of her existence, seeking the anonymity she criticizes men for using to voice their opinions.  I hope Reputation Defender is still in business!

But enough about a bitter, angry shrew who has to live not only with herself, but also a younger, neckbeard beta husband.  The new site itself, Register-Her.com, is a more worthy topic of discussion.

Is it fair for Register-Her.com to exist?  The Atlantic tells us that it’s the “End of Men.”  Women already kvetch and attack men’s reputations on Don’t Date Him Girl.  There’s no need for free speech to be “fair,” since its mere availability levels the playing field.  This new website fills a void in beating back the myth of intrinsic female virtue, though.  I clicked around to see what the site was about and found that each article is a recitation of sourced, cited and publicly available information.  In some cases, the women profiled in the articles are described in their very own words.  While the site was designed to be provocative, it was not created with the intent to hurt those named within it for the sheer purpose of inflicting pain.  Plus, there are limitations of liability inherent in the site’s design and operation.  Section 230 protects the site’s owner from liability for content posted by others.  To the extent others’ content may wind up on the site, such as a mugshot or screen capture, they tend to be government works – which are not subject to copyright – or tiny snippets of news articles that are almost certain to constitute fair use — assuming the articles’ factual elements can even be copyrighted.

As for litigation that can be pursued against the site… what, exactly?  Where is the disclosure of public facts when all of the site’s information is available from other online sources?  What unreasonable attention has been brought to someone’s private life?  How is aggregation of the news shocking or extreme conduct — especially when Register-Her.com is a republication of what others have written?  I’m confident Elam has the compassion to remove an entry if there’s a good reason to do so, but it is unlikely that reason would be expressed via litigation with even a remote chance of success, even as a SLAPP suit.

I’ve no doubt that this is far from the end of whining and gnashing of teeth over Register-Her.com.  More will come as the site’s contents work their way up Google’s search algorithm.  All they will do, however, is make the site more well-read and well-known. (See also Juicycampus.com (RIP).)


Rep. Steve Cohen on SLAPPs

June 20, 2011

Representative Steve Cohen, the Legal Satyricon’s favorite Congressman (source), provides an editorial in Roll Call on SLAPP litigation and the Dan Snyder case (prev. blogged on here).


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,695 other followers