What happened to Cohen v. California?

January 23, 2012

A man was arrested for wearing a jacket with a political message on it while in the history exhibit at the United States Supreme Court.

Yes, the same United States Supreme Court that said it was Paul Robert Cohen’s right to wear a jacket in a courthouse emblazoned with the message “fuck the draft.” Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).

H/T: Paul Levy

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).

Rep. Steve Cohen with more badassery!

March 30, 2010

hot on the heels of being named a Legal Satyricon First Amendment Bad Ass for introducing Federal Anti-Slapp legislation, Rep. Cohen gives a shout out to Alex Chilton, may he rest in slack.


Federal Anti-SLAPP Legislation Introduced — Hail Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

March 4, 2010

Congressman Steve Cohen, D-TN is our First Amendment Bad Ass of the week.

Mr. Cohen introduced The Citizen Participation Act, a federal anti-slapp bill. The bill describes its purpose as follows:

To protect first amendment rights of petition and free speech by preventing States and the United States from allowing meritless lawsuits arising from acts in furtherance of those rights, commonly called ‘‘SLAPPs’’, and for other purposes.

It is about time.

SLAPP suits are all-too common and are a scourge on our legal landscape. Personally, they have been good for me, as I earn a significant income by defending these kinds of suits, but as much as I love money, I love free speech more (and I’m sure that I could sell that time elsewhere). A SLAPP suit is a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” In other words, it is a lawsuit that some hosebag files against a critic — not because he hopes to win anything, but because the mere filing of the suit is punishment enough for the critic. Lawsuits are expensive, and when a rich douchebag has plenty of money to spend on attorneys’s fees, he can afford to sue a couple of critics, thus scaring the bejesus out of anyone else who might criticize him.

The Public Participation Project had this to say about SLAPPS:

Regardless of who is speaking and who is suing, everyone is losing when SLAPPs are allowed to continue. These meritless lawsuits clog the courts, waste resources and contribute to a general culture of litigousness. Instead of answering speech with speech, SLAPP filers answer speech with subpoenas and spurious claims.

SLAPPs frequently end in settlement, conditioned on silence, apology or retraction, so important ideas are excised from the debate, and critical information – about health, safety, economic security, civil rights and liberties, and government abuse – is withheld from the public. Would-be participants in public life see the devastating effects of lawsuits – on life savings, employment, reputation and even staying insured – and think twice before speaking out.

Judge Nicholas Colabella, Jr., famously said of SLAPPs that a greater threat to First Amendment rights can scarcely be imagined. SLAPPs chip away at the will and ability to speak out, person by person, group by group, issue by issue. James Madison cautioned that “there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations,” and his words ring true in the SLAPP context. (source)

About half of the states have some form of legislation against this, but only California and Oregon have anti-SLAPP statutes that are worth a damn. Flori-duh’s is so watered down that it may as well only apply when a Unicorn shits on the Defendant’s lawn. However, in California and Oregon, if a Plaintiff files a lawsuit that implicates the Defendant’s First Amendment rights, the Defendant can file a “special motion to strike.” Then, the Plaintiff will need to show that his suit is not just a baseless and harassing claim. If the Plaintiff can’t do that, then the case is dismissed and the Plaintiff has to pay the Defendant’s attorneys fees.

Congressman Cohen’s bill is very similar to the California law (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 425.16), and provides the right kind of remedies. One would think that the Republicans would line up behind this — as it provides much-needed “tort reform.” The Democrats… well, there was a time when the Democratic party seemed like the party that favored free speech. I am starting to doubt that, but Mr. Cohen should be able to marshall some of his Democratic colleagues to support this bill.

I can not stress how important a bill like this is. If you can, please write a letter to your Representative urging their support for HR 4364.

Copy this post, if you like. You don’t even need to attribute, if you don’t want to. (I hereby release the copyright in this post to the public domain). Distribute the news far and wide. If you ever use your First Amendment rights, then this bill matters to you.

And… to really make the other congressmen stand up and take notice, if you can afford to, send Congressman Cohen a campaign contribution with a note stating that you only sent it because of his sponsorship of this bill. I sent him a hundred bucks today.

Also… if you want help writing your congressman, click here.

Hat Tip to Eric Goldman

Stupid Flunkie Never Read Cohen v. California

August 29, 2008

On April 26, 1968, Paul Cohen walked into the Los Angeles County Courthouse wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words “Fuck the Draft.” He was arrested, Mel Nimmer took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, where the decision was reversed as Cohen’s jacket constituted First Amendment protected expression. See Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) (“one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric”).

In 2008, Lapriss Gilbert was ejected from the Social Security office in Los Angeles for wearing a t-shirt that said “lesbian.com”. Apparently the flunkie dipshit who worked for Paragon Security Company has never read that particular Supreme Court decision. He “cited the document, The Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property, as proof of his jurisdiction over Gilbert’s attire” (source) and told her to leave the building or she would be subject to arrest.

Here is where the story gets truly amazing. The Brown Shirts Department of Homeland Security ADMITTED THAT IT WAS WRONG!

Lori Haley, a federal spokeswoman for the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – which is under the Homeland Security umbrella – said the guard was out of line.

“We believe that the actions of the contract security guard were inappropriate and unacceptable – we have notified his company, Paragon, of our position in the matter,” Haley said.

Incredible. Perhaps the times they are a’changin’ as the dipshit-in-chief prepares to step down. I have never, since the Department of fucking America in the ass and capitulating to the terrorists Homeland Security was created, heard anyone from that agency admit they were wrong. Lori Haley will probably be fired for breaking ranks, but I’ll still think highly of her.

Post Hat Tip: Popehat

Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals – Fire Your Public Relations Agent

May 16, 2015

From this press release.

Hi-Tech Pharmaceutical Sues Self Professed Weight Loss Expert – Harvard Professor Pieter A. Cohen for $50 Million in Compensatory Damages and $150 Million in Punitive Damages for Libel and Slander

NORCROSS, Ga., April 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc, ( “Hi-Tech”) filed a suit against four researchers who published a defamatory article in a journal known as “Drug Testing and Analysis” an article entitled, “An amphetamine isomer whose efficacy and safety in humans has never been studied, B-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), is found in multiple dietary supplements.” Jared Wheat, President of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, stated, “Defendants Cohen, Bloszies, Yee, and Gerona have published and/or uttered multiple false and malicious statements about the safety of dietary supplements containing Acacia rigidula manufactured by Hi-Tech and others, with the intent to incite enforcement action against Hi-Tech from the FDA and to defame and disparage Hi-Tech’s products and commercial reputation.”

“Through several dozen false, misleading and defamatory statements, repeated continuously during a week-long disinformation campaign, Pieter A. Cohen ABC and other individuals knowingly misled consumers into believing that B-methylphenylethylamine LFTB was not a dietary supplement and not safe for public consumption, which is completely false,” said Stacey Alexander, Chief Scientific Officer of Hi-Tech. “Hi-Tech has filed suit because our business has been severely damaged by this conduct. As a result, we will be asking a jury to award Hi-Tech over two hundred million in compensatory and punitive damages.” stated Alexander.

Shit… are you awake? Oh no, the reader is CODING. Reader got BORED TO FUCKING DEATH. CLEAR! CLEAR!

Ok, whew… you back? Thought we lost you for a minute there.

So, if you got anything out of that, I imagine it is that “Hi-Tech” sued a researcher for his statements that their product didn’t work.

It doesn’t say where they sued him. If you dare read the rest of it, here it is.

Oh, and Hi-Tech, the person who damaged your business the most is the person who approved that press release.

And I would be surprised if it doesn’t get worse.

UPDATE: Here is the complaint. I don’t have time to draft a full report on it. But, looking at it suggests to me that it was not the most well thought out plan. This is not going to end the way Hi-Tech hoped.

UPDATE2: Wow… the more I read this thing, the more I question the wisdom of filing it. It certainly isn’t the stupidest defamation suit I’ve ever seen. But, it makes a pretty respectable showing in that competition.

The New Victorians Strike Campus Yet Again (VIDEO)

April 16, 2013
By Greg Lukianoff

While they are rightfully accused of being hyper-politically correct, college campuses these days sometimes seem downright Victorian. Take, for example, the case of Isaac Rosenbloom, a student whose quest to complete college so he could become a paramedic was nearly ended after he complained to another student about an assignment after class. Rosenbloom told his classmate that the grade he got on the assignment was “going to fuck up my entire GPA.” When his professor overheard him, she threatened the 29-year-old father of two with (I kid you not) “detention.” Rosenbloom was brought up under the charge of “flagrant disrespect of any person”—an actual offense at Hinds Community College in Mississippi.

Check out Isaac’s story in this new video.

One might think that such a ridiculous incident would quickly resolve itself as soon as the charges got in front of the university counsel. But one would be wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Ignoring cases like Cohen v. California (1971) and, even more on point, Papish v. Board of Curators (1973), the administration went ahead with a surreal hearing. Rosenbloom was found guilty of “flagrant disrespect,” given 12 “demerits,” and was no longer eligible for his Pell Grant, (which effectively meant expulsion for Rosenbloom). The university only backed down after my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), found a lawyer for Rosenbloom and secured a favorable settlement in July 2010.

Cases like this are not rare on campus. Indeed, just as the Isaac Rosenbloom case was ending, the perhaps even sillier swearing case of Jacob Lovell at the University of Georgia was just beginning (you can watch a video about his case here, complete with Lex Luthor allusions). As I pointed out last fall when I unveiled a video about a professor who vandalized a “free speech wall” in Texas because someone had written “fuck Obama” on it, if there is one thing that seems to unite the Right and Left on campus, it is that some subset of both groups really, really hate swearing. Because of this fact, unfortunately, campus administrators are too often able to get away with punishing students for cases that involve swearing.

I tried to call out this practice in my book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. While swearing is sometimes the purported justification for punishment, it is clear that in case after case students are not really being punished for swearing, they are being punished because they swore in the process of complaining about the university.

Lately it seems as though the “campus censors as Victorians” theme is popping up all over the country. Just last month one college in upstate New York banned a campus event involving a gay porn star, another college in New Mexico shut down the student newspaper after they produced an issue about sex, and in an ongoing saga, a professor at Appalachian State University was suspended after showing a graphic video that was critical of the adult film industry.

Today’s campus censors appear to be haunted by the spirit of Anthony Comstock, and they’re likely to have the same level of success in the long run that Comstock did. But in the meantime, these efforts to appease the uptight are doing real damage by harming discourse on campus, impoverishing the marketplace of ideas, and higher education just a little bit dumber.

Greg  Lukianoff is the president of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).  He is also the author of “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.”

Public university censors student’s fliers protesting censorship

December 9, 2012

Saginaw Valley State University, a public university located in Michigan, boldly and ironically censored a university student’s flyers about censorship earlier this year.  (Source).

SVSU recently adopted a new policy requiring that all flyers receive approval from the Student Life office prior to posting.  The policy requires that, among other things, the flyers “be in good taste, free from profanity, nudity, or sexually suggestive graphics/phrasing.”  The vague wording of the policy does not define “in good taste.”

Student Daniel Chapman submitted flyers in protest to the new policy, which stated, “”Fuck Censorship, Fuck Oppression, Fuck the Draft. Fight for Free Speech and Political Expression at SVSU and Elsewhere.”  Chapman showed his knowledge of the First Amendment in submitting the flyers, which he explained purposely paralleled the language at issue in Cohen v. California.  In Cohen, the appellant was a Vietnam War protestor who wore a jacket embroidered with the words “Fuck the draft” into a California courthouse.  Cohen was convicted of disturbing the peace by offensive conduct and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.  The Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s ruling that the jacket was offensive conduct, reasoning instead that the jacket was speech protected by the First Amendment.

Despite this, SVSU’s legal counsel informed Chapman that his flyer would not be approved because it contained the word “fuck.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education took up Chapman’s cause.  Thus far, two letters to the school remain unanswered. FIRE plans to take the issue up the chain of command.

You are Fined Twenty Dollars for Violation of the Verbal Morality Statute.

June 12, 2012

Creating a well-timed and well-phrased barrage of expletives has been around since the beginning of time and those who have mastered the art should be revered as national treasures (George Carlin, rest in peace). Middleborough, Massachusetts does not share this sentiment. Frustrated malcontent Mimi Duphily was fed up with young hooligans dropping the F-bomb near her auto parts store. So she did what any twat rational, intelligent human being would do- Persuade the city council to permit local police to issue fines to individuals cursing in public.

Source 1. Source 2.

The current Middleborough ordinance is based on a previous ordinance criminalizing profanity which is rarely, if ever, enforced. Profanity was bundled with a bunch of other “anti-social” behaviors that are now decriminalized. So instead of being charged with a crime, a person who “verbally accosts” someone in public will receive a $20 fine. At first blush this appears mired in abject stupidity because, well, it is. But the denizens of Middleborough are not alone. In fact, it seems states have always been trying to punish naughty words- both civilly and criminally. Typically, the government will try to stamp out profanity by slapping a fine on some poor schmuck for violating a statute or local ordinance that was enacted before women gained the right to vote and hasn’t been enforced for years if it ever was to begin with.

In 1942, the United States Supreme Court held that “fighting words”— words “which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace” — are not protected by the First Amendment. Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 15 U.S. 568 (1942). Then in 1971, the Nine limited Chaplinsky by explaining that wearing a jacket that said “Fuck the Draft” was a “simple public display” as opposed to a direct insult or intent to incite harm. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971). In the wake of Cohen and related cases (notably, Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576 (1969)-the flag burning case) the 1970’s through 1990s saw a smattering of cases testing Cohen with little or no success.

By and large, ordinances punishing profanity are nearly always struck down as overbroad, vague, and punishing constitutionally protected speech. See e.g., City of Baton Rouge v. Ewing, 308 So.2d 776 (La., 1975)(Motion to quash charge for using ‘indecent, vile, and profane language’ granted based on the ground that the ordinance was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment); and State v. Authelet, 120 R.I. 42, 385 A.2d 642 (R.I., 1978)(Acquittal for person convicted of profanity statute because under fighting words doctrine profanity was not directed at arresting officer). More recently, Michigan tried it in 2002 in People v. Boomer,655 N.W.2d 255 (Mich. App. 2002). A local sheriff ticketed a guy for violating a profanity statute enacted in 1897 that criminalized the use of profane language in front of women and children. The Court of Appeals threw out the conviction and overturned the law, stating that “allowing a prosecution where one utters ‘insulting’ language could possibly subject a vast percentage of the populace to a misdemeanor conviction.” The court went on to note that it would be “difficult to conceive of a statute that would be more vague.”

Abject stupidity aside, the Middleborough city council’s decision is problematic not only because it is extremely vague but also because the ticketing officer is given the discretion to determine the gravity of the profanity. Does the officer’s discretion extend to loud music? “I wasn’t cussing officer; it was Jay-Z, why don’t you send him the ticket?” What about holding a sign that reads, “Fuck you, you fucking fuck” (preferably in front of Mimi Duphily’s store)? The council would have done well to read Cohen ([a statute that] reflects an “undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression), and Street, (“We cannot say that [burning the American Flag on a street corner] was so inherently inflammatory as to come within that small class of ‘fighting words’ which are ‘likely to provoke the average person to retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of the peace”). I am waiting on bated breath to see if this ordinance is actually enforced and I can’t help but wonder what the budget of the city attorney’s office is these days.

But the good news is that now we have a name for the fine-issuing machine in Demolition Man- let’s call it the Duphily.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Takes on Male Centric Blogs – Receives Bloody Nose

March 9, 2012

The SPLC is, by most measurements, a noble organization. However, just like the ACLU, it seems to be suffering from mission creep. It recently rounded up a number of male-centric blogs and decided to add them to its blacklist.

One of them, so far, “A Voice For Men” fought back. Not by filing a defamation suit (which it might have had a legal right to) but by adding more speech to the marketplace of ideas. A Voice For Men published this “Open Letter to Richard Cohen of the SPLC.”

AVFM – 1
SPLC – 0

Judge should review history of First Amendment

March 1, 2012

Pennsylvania District Judge Mark Martin needs to review his First Amendment law a little more carefully. Ernie Perce, an atheist who marched in a Halloween parade last year dressed as “zombie Mohammed,” was before Judge Martin after he alleged he was attacked by Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim who took action after he witnessed Perce’s costume.

Perce wore a turban and a long, fake beard and painted his face green. During the parade, he yelled the phrases “I am the prophet Mohammed! Zombie from the dead!” He marched with another protestor, who was dressed as a zombie pope, carrying a banner that read, “The Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania: Ghoulish, Godless, God-awful.” According to Perce, Elbayomy attacked him, and Elbayomy was charged with harassment.

Judge Martin dismissed the charges against Elbayomy and scolded Perce, telling the protestor he had been insensitive. He also called Perce a “doofus.”

“You have that right, but you’re way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights,” Martin said, according to CNN. “I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.”

To the contrary, our forefathers intended that all U.S. citizens be allowed to criticize anyone they chose. The very first American citizens often criticized Great Britain, who they viewed as overly oppressive to the colonists. You can bet that the Brits were none too happy about that. The purpose of the First Amendment is to ensure that all people are protected when expressing their views, even if such views are unpopular. As GW Law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out, “People like Thomas Paine spent his entire life ticking off people across the colonies.” Another founding father, Thomas Jefferson, was hostile to the Catholic Church and criticized it often.

Perce was within his right to express his religious beliefs as an atheist, and if Elbayomy had expressed his dissent in a non-violent manner, he would have also been within his right. Sure, the thrust of the First Amendment isn’t to promote behavior that offends other people, but that is beside the point. Just because Perce offended Elbayomy did not give Elbayomy free license to assault Perce.

Judge Martin’s rationale for dismissing the charges against Elbayomy most certainly should not have been because Perce intended to “piss off other people and other cultures.” This is exactly the sort of thing the First Amendment was intended to protect against. Yes, Perce’s costume was offensive to Elbayomy, but it didn’t rise to the level of fighting words—there were no “personally abusive epithets” required by Cohen v. California.  Judge Martin should not have let Elbayomy off the hook for assault just because Perce said something he personally didn’t like.

Judge Martin could learn a thing or two by looking back again at what the First Amendment actually protects.

Toilet Law School Files Feces Defamation Suit

September 30, 2011

Thomas M. Cooley Law School Diplomas - Take One!

By Marc J. Randazza

I’m not much of a prestige whore, but I’m not blind to the reality that Thomas M. Cooley Law School is a standalone punchline within the legal profession.  I’m familiar with its absurdly large class sizes, its questionable practice of culling the bottom few percent of its students each year to ensure high enough bar passage rates to maintain its tenuous grasp on ABA accreditation, and its bizarre self-ranking system that places an inordinate emphasis on library seating capacity.  After all, “[t]o study, a student needs a place to sit”! (source at xiv.)  Also, if the NFL based its draft selections on US News-style rankings – if they applied to football programs – only 30% of NFL quarterbacks would be on a roster!  Think that sounds like Bullshit?  It’s a major rationale for Cooley’s student recruiting.  Still confused?  Welcome to Cooley Law.

Cooley is an abysmal institution. And, as a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut, and a broken clock is right twice a day, Cooley does accidentally drop decent lawyers into the system on occasion. However, the general public’s esteem for lawyers would improve above cockroaches and approach Nigerian e-mail scammers if this dump were to close its doors — at all four(!) campuses.

And as evidence that Cooley really is the Righthaven of law schools — I present to you this lawsuit it filed against four critical John Doe defendants is even worse.

Naturally, those who climbed up out of the Cooley garbage disposal, only to find themselves with a mortgage-sized chunk of non-dischargable debt and the indelible resume stain of a Cooley law degree, were a bit pissed at the school.  So, a number of people – presumably alumni, former students, or even current ones – began posting at a blog titled “THOMAS M. COOLEY LAW SCHOOL SCAM.”  This is the basis for Cooley’s lawsuit.

If the four defendants had asked me for pre-publication review, I would have advised them against making some of their statements without presenting supporting evidence.  But that poses an even larger issue for Cooley: What if the people it’s suing for claiming the law school’s employees conceal their identities, and are on the take from financial institutions, are correct?  Is Cooley ready for discovery relating to the alleged investigation of “serious Title IV violations”?

Plain and simple, this is a SLAPP suit.  If Cooley were in California, Oregon, Texas, or DC, the Doe defendants would be looking at a healthy payday from Cooley, and would have pro bono representation lined up around the block.  Alternatively, if Rep. Steve Cohen had his way in enacting a federal anti-SLAPP statute, the defendants would have that protection at home.  But because this action is pending in Michigan, the defendants have no such recourse.  Hopefully they won’t have to retain Cooley grads to defend them!

It’s out of character for me to dump on law schools and their graduates out of prestige concerns.  But Cooley truly is on a level all its own in embodying all that is wrong with legal education.  At the very beginning of its Complaint, Cooley brags about having the largest enrollment and four campuses, as if this is a mark of accomplishment.  Harvard and Georgetown have large law school enrollments – but they also send many of their students, and likely the preponderance of them, onto gainful employment – or employment period.  

Can Cooley say that more than half of its graduates in any given year are employed in the law, or at all?  If someone is accusing your nationally mocked law school of being a scam, perhaps bringing a lawsuit over such allegations isn’t the best way to disprove them.  The louder one screams about something, the more likely it is to be the truth – and allegations of “lur[ing]” students to a school so they may be “prey[ed]” upon isn’t something that should be dignified, let alone potentially substantiated, with a lawsuit — if it’s untrue.

Even if the allegations against Cooley are false — so what?  They’re anonymous comments on a blog that are not going to be heralded as being immutable reality.  If the comments are true, then this is the dumbest thing Cooley could ever do.  Considering how many members of Cooley’s faculty are school alumni, though, is it any surprise nobody advised the school otherwise?  

This lawsuit is a heinous crime against free expression.  May an even worse pox than the one currently afflicting it befall that institution for turning the courts into an instrument to beat down free speech and censor the reality that everyone – including many jobless and hopeless Cooley alumni – knows to be true: Cooley sucks.

Read the Complaint.

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

July 9, 2011

Apparently it sounds an awful lot like “Europe’s last dictator” Alexander Lukashenko feeling all butthurt. Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus has ordered a crackdown on political protests.

In order to evade tough regulations on public rallies, protesters eschew placards and shouted slogans, and merely clap their hands to display their anger at Mr. Lukashenko’s policies. Since the weekly flash mob protests began last month, more than 1,700 people have been arrested – 400 this week alone. Most of them were fined heavily or jailed for up to 15 days on police court testimony that they were expressing a political opinion by clapping their hands in public. (source)

Konstantin Kaplin from the town of Grodno, Belarus, was apparently convicted of “applauding in public,” and fined $200, despite the fact that he had probably the greatest defense argument ever — he has only one arm. Reports state that the judge seemed disturbed by the sentence herself, but was likely under pressure from superiors… so she was just doing her job.

This is what happens when you don’t stand up for your civil liberties. Remember that the next time you sigh that the poor little TSA fuckwad is “just doing his job.”

This could happen anywhere, given enough complacency for enough time. And, every time you don’t do something to resist the erosion of your civil liberties, you are part of the foundation for one man being convicted of clapping here in the future.

So ask yourself this question: What have I done this week to resist? You don’t need to go out in the street with molotov cocktails. That might be appropriate, but I don’t expect that kind of bravery from Americans. (I’m not even that brave, so how can I expect it of you?) But, did you fly this week? Did you refuse the rape-scan? Were you pleasant to the TSA, or did you tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves?

Did you videotape and publicize police misconduct like these kids did?

Did you donate money to the legal defense fund for someone being abused by a petty little dictator in Florida? See Kimberly Kupps.

Did you at least argue when you heard someone say “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t worry about the government spying on you”?

Were you at least a dick to a TSA agent?

Did you call your congressman and tell him to support federal anti-SLAPP legislation, or donate money to a candidate who would?

Did you teach a kid about civil liberties? Even a little bit?

Did you do do anything for civil liberties this week? If not, why not? Opportunity didn’t present itself? Bullshit. If you did nothing, then you’re a lazy fuck who believes in “going along to get along,” just like you’re doing time in prison.

To change that, you don’t need to cut anyone’s throat or start a riot — but small moves, small actions, even just the act of discussing the problem, is an act of resistance. If you didn’t do anything this week, then congratulations, you’re part of why we are no longer the Land of the Free, and we are now the “Land of the Mewling Cowards.”

But I have good news for you — you can make up for it. Do something today.


Because the only thing that evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

“The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America”

December 10, 2010

“The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America.”

That is what General Hugh Sheldon, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during parts of the Clinton and dipshit Bush administrations. In his recent memoir, he wrote about a particularly disturbing request made by a member of the Clinton cabinet:

Early on in my days as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we had small, weekly White House breakfasts in National Security Advisor Sandy Berger’s office that included me, Sandy, Bill Cohen (Secretary of Defense), Madeleine Albright (Secretary of State), George Tenet (head of the CIA), Leon Firth (VP chief of staff for security), Bill Richardson (ambassador to the U.N.), and a few other senior administration officials. These were informal sessions where we would gather around Berger’s table and talk about concerns over coffee and breakfast served by the White House dining facility. It was a comfortable setting that encouraged brainstorming of potential options on a variety of issues of the day.

During that time we had U-2 aircraft on reconnaissance sorties over Iraq. These planes were designed to fly at extremely high speeds and altitudes (over seventy thousand feet) both for pilot safety and to avoid detection.

At one of my very first breakfasts, while Berger and Cohen were engaged in a sidebar discussion down at one end of the table and Tenet and Richardson were preoccupied in another, one of the Cabinet members present leaned over to me and said, “Hugh, I know I shouldn’t even be asking you this, but what we really need in order to go in and take out Saddam is a precipitous event — something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world. Could you have one of our U-2s fly low enough — and slow enough — so as to guarantee that Saddam could shoot it down?”

The hair on the back of my neck bristled, my teeth clenched, and my fists tightened. I was so mad I was about to explode. I looked across the table, thinking about the pilot in the U-2 and responded, “Of course we can …” which prompted a big smile on the official’s face.

“You can?” was the excited reply.

“Why, of course we can,” I countered. “Just as soon as we get your ass qualified to fly it, I will have it flown just as low and slow as you want to go.”

The official reeled back and immediately the smile disappeared. “I knew I should not have asked that….”

“No, you should not have,” I strongly agreed, still shocked at the disrespect and sheer audacity of the question. “Remember, there is one of our great Americans flying that U-2, and you are asking me to intentionally send him or her to their death for an opportunity to kick Saddam. The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America.” (source)

What a refreshing thing to hear from a military leader. “The last time I checked, we don’t operate like that here in America.” Unfortunately, once his boss changed, that sentence became something that you would only say in jest. I mean honestly, is there anything that we could actually say is outside the realm of “how we operate” in America? We torture, we lie, we cheat, and we sell our own liberty down the river.

And General Shelton has more choice words for his former boss, GWB. His book is expexcted to levy the charge that the only reason we invaded Iraq was because of a “series of lies.” (source)

President Bush and his team got us enmeshed in Iraq based on extraordinarily poor intelligence and a series of lies purporting that we had to protect Americans from Saddam’s evil empire because it posed such a threat to our national security,” Shelton writes in his memoir. (source)

Y’know… maybe we’ve always been a little shady. But, at least we were always sorry about it afterward. And, at least we held up a beacon and pointed toward what was right.

When I was a kid, my dad took me to see Midway at the movie theater. I remember at the end of the movie, there’s this line:

“It doesn’t make any sense, Admiral. Yamamoto had everything going for him, power, experience, confidence… Were we better than the Japanese, or just luckier?”

I was seven, so I looked at my dad and asked “were we luckier or better?” He looked down at me and said “bettah.”

I honestly believed that. I mean, my dad said it… but when I got to school, my dad’s story checked out. As it did in all the books we had. Everything pointed to that. Based on that, I really bought into the theory of America being more than just a pile of dirt that we all share. It meant something.

I sure as shit wish that some of our politicians’ dads took them to see Midway when they were kids.

News Flash: L.A. Times Prints Whiney Panic Piece

August 27, 2010

by Jason Fischer

Okay.  So it’s not really a news flash – it’s kinda the bread and butter of the L.A. Times to print whiney panic pieces.  However, this story hit upon our sweet spot.  Reporter David G. Savage writes to warn us all about the dangers of criticizing others on teh interwebs.  The advice to bloggers and emailers: “think twice before sending a message.”

With all due respect to the attorneys quoted in the piece, the story is a load of shit.  It paints the picture that you can and will be sued for posting anything negative about anyone or anything.  We understand that there is only so much space available for a story, but this one was so halfway done, that we question the article’s intent.  Newspapers are losing their grip on the dissemination of information, as blogs and citizen journalists deliver information to the masses.  It almost seems like the L.A. Times was trying to scare us all from encroaching on their turf – and that it must have consciously failed to complete the story.

ShittyDentistThe article quotes our friend Professor Eric Goldman, of Santa Clara University, as saying that someone can be sued for saying “My dentist stinks.”  Conveniently, this is the end of the quote – convenient because it supports the message behind the piece, i.e., don’t be mean to people and hurt their feelings by writing unkind things about them.  We’re sure that, if the entirety of Professor Goldman’s input were published, he would have gone on to state, unequivocally, that “My dentist stinks” would never carry the day in court.  In fact, in California, bringing such a frivolous suit would leave the plaintiff paying everyone’s attorneys’ fees, after getting hit with a special motion to strike pursuant to the state’s anti-SLAPP statute.  We’ve never seen Goldman shill for the “fraidy cat” contingent, and we bet our entire publication’s credibility that he didn’t do so this time.

Let’s break it down LS style, in case someone out there is now afraid to complain about how much her dentist stinks on yelp after reading the article.  There are two ways the statement “My dentist stinks” can be interpreted:

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