First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Joe ‘The Plumber’ Wurzelbacher wants you and ‘deranged Mexicans’ to admit wanting ‘a white Republican president again’

joeplumber

Who dragged this guy out of the sewer?

The Raw Story

In an article posted on his website, the man known as “Joe the Plumber” during the last presidential election cycle published an unattributed article whose author assured readers that wanting a “white Republican president” doesn’t “make you a racist, it just makes you an American.”

The article, written by Kevin Jackson, contends that “[i]n the pre-black president era, criticizing the president was simply the American thing to do. An exercise of one’s First Amendment right. Criticism had nothing to do with color, because there had never been a black president.”

The problem, according to Jackson, isn’t the legacy of American slavery or race-relations, but the fact that the motivations of those who criticize the president are questioned: “Mexicans disagreed with most white Republican presidents over America’s immigration policy. Many deranged Mexicans believe we should open the country up to them, some saying that much of America belongs to Mexico anyway. They are not called racists.”

Being “called a racist” is, for Jackson, the worst possible fate a critic can face. And yet, later in the article, he claims that “most Liberal blacks are racists. Nobody wants to discuss it,” he writes, “because racism by black Liberals has been sanctioned by the Left, even encouraged.”

“I long for the days of a white president,” Jackson writes, “because under white presidents, at least black people had pride. Liberals have stolen pride from blacks, and they have no intention of giving it back.”

[Image via Youtube screencap]

Justice Department urges Maryland court to uphold citizens’ right to film police

Protesters filming police via Shutterstock

This is good news, coming from an administration that has not always sided with protesters on civil rights issues but this is a start…

The Raw Story

The Justice Department filed a statement of interest Friday in the case of a journalist arrested in 2011 for filming police officers in Montgomery County, Maryland.According to Politico, the Department affirmed the right of individuals to record police under the First Amendment.

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department filed a statement in Maryland federal court that argued not only that individuals have a First Amendment right to record police officers doing their duties in public, but that those recordings are protected from seizure without a warrant or due process under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Department urged the court to uphold these rights and declined a motion to dismiss by Montgomery County in the case Garcia v. Montgomery County.

“The United States is concerned that discretionary charges, such as disorderly conduct, loitering, disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, are all too easily used to curtail expressive conduct or retaliate against individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights. … Core First Amendment conduct, such as recording a police officer performing duties on a public street, cannot be the sole basis for such charges,” the statement said.

In Garcia v. Montgomery County, photojournalist Manny Garcia is suing after an incident in which Baltimore police officers arrested him and confiscated his camera’s memory card when Garcia filmed officers arresting two men using what Garcia believed to be excessive force. Garcia informed police that he was a journalist and complied with all of their instructions except to stop filming.

Nonetheless he was placed in handcuffs and arrested. Police confiscated his camera, removing the battery and memory card. According to the complaint they also kicked him to the ground, taunted and insulted him, and threatened to arrest his wife if she tried to take his camera.

The ruling in the case will have repercussions for several cases nationwide. Police personnel are coming under increased scrutiny thanks to the ubiquity of smart phones. In most cases in which police departments have attempted to prosecute individuals who film officers, the federal government has ruled that the First Amendment supports their right to do so.

Politico’s Tal Kopan wrote, “Federal appellate courts have upheld a First Amendment right to record police in cases including Glik v. Cunniffe in 2011, Smith v. Cummings in 2000 and Fordyce v. City of Seattle in 1995, all of which Justice cites in its statement in the Garcia case.”

Supreme Court Inaction Boosts Right To Record Police Officers

Score another one for democracy…

The Huffington Post

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court  declined to review a decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the enforcement of an Illinois eavesdropping law. The broadly written law — the most stringent in the country — makes it a felony to make an audio recording of someone without their permission, punishable by four to 15 years in prison.

Many states have similar “all-party consent” law, which mean one must get the permission of all parties to a conversation before recording it. But in all of those states — except for Massachusetts and Illinois — the laws include a provision that the parties being recorded must have a reasonable expectation of privacy for it to be a crime to record them.

The Illinois law once included such a provision, but it was removed by the state legislature in response to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that threw out the conviction of a man accused of recording police from the back of a squad car. That ruling found that police on the job have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Illinois and Massachusetts laws have been used to arrest people who attempt to record on-duty police officers and other public officials. In one of the more notorious cases, Chicago resident Tiawanda Moore was arrested in 2010 when she attempted to use her cell phone to record officers in a Chicago police station.

Moore had come to the station to report an alleged sexual assault by a Chicago cop, and says she became frustrated when internal affairs officers allegedly bullied her and attempted to talk her out of filing the report. Moore was eventually acquitted.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is planning a police accountability project in Chicago that will involve recording police while they’re on duty. The organization wanted to be sure its employees and volunteers wouldn’t be charged with felonies.

The 7th Circuit Court found a specific First Amendment right to record police officers. It’s the second federal appeals court to strike down a conviction for recording police. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a man wrongly arrested for recording cops could sue the arresting officers for violating his First Amendment rights.

Continue reading here…

Court declares 92 Occupy Chicago arrests unconstitutional

Two New York City police officers arrest a man during the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. Photo: Flickr user anjanjanj.

Just ninety-two?  Well, it’s a start and that’s just one county in Illinois.  The Judge makes some really good points in his opinion.

The Raw Story

A judge in Cook County, Illinois on Thursday dismissed over 90 cases against Occupy Chicago activists on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Judge Thomas Donnelly declared that the city’s park curfew law that was used to arrest activists in Grant Park last October was “unconstitutional both on its face and as applied and all complaints in this case are dismissed with prejudice,” according to the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).

“The Occupy Chicago demonstrators were subject to constantly changing rules and regulations that ended in a directive that they had to be constantly moving in order to protest,” the judge explained in his 37-page opinion (PDF). “Viewed in isolation the rules and regulations appear reasonable, but viewed in the larger context of the Occupy movement’s presence in Chicago, they give rise to the inference that the City was attempting to discourage this particular protest.”

“The police would promulgate a rule; when the protesters would comply, the police would change the rule,” he added. “These facts, together with the clear pattern of selective enforcement of the Curfew, support a finding that the cityintended to discriminate against the Defendants based on their views.”

NLG attorney Sarah Gelsomino, who represented the activists, said that Donnelly “made the right decision by declaring the city’s ordinance unconstitutional and by dismissing the remaining cases brought by the city against activists legitimately engaged in free speech.”

Chicago Law Department spokesperson Roderick Drew told the Chicago Tribune that the city would appeal the ruling.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Signs Legislation Permitting Employers to Interrogate Female Employees About Contraception Use

Jan Brewer (Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com)

The Raw Story By ABL

A month or so ago, I wrote about a bill in Arizona (HB 2625) that would permit employers to opt-out of the so-called birth control mandate and interrogate their female employees about their sexual practices, all in the name of “religious freedom”:

You see, if a female employee seeks a medical prescription for contraception, an employer will be permitted to ask that employee for proof that she doesn’t plan to use the contraception for slutty fuck-making.  Using it for medical reasons is ok —  that’smedicine.

So, if you’re one of those women who uses slutpills for non-slutty reasons, then you’re ok.  You’ll get to keep your job.  Enjoy your ovarian cancer or your acne or whatever, but make sure you put that red cover on your TPS reports or the boss’ll have your head.

But if you’re running around like some sort of whore-nympho, then you better keep that shit on the down-low, because if The Man finds out you might-could get fired:

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Monday to endorse a controversial bill that would allow Arizona employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraceptivesbased on religious objections.

Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.

“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the  Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Lesko said this bill responds to a contraceptive mandate in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.

“My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion,” Lesko said. “All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections.”

Glendale resident Liza Love said the bill would impose on women’s rights to keep their medical records private.

Love spoke to the committee about her struggle with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, conditions requiring her to use birth control.

“I wouldn’t mind showing my employer my medical records,” Love said. “But there are 10 women behind me that would be ashamed to do so.”
(read the rest)

Continue reading Raw Story article here…

Remedial First Amendment For Conservatives (And Bill Maher)

Oliver Willis

Here, in full, is the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Our constitution explicitly says that you can say whatever you want to say without government interference. What it does not guarantee is any sort of platform to make that speech. The first amendment does not guarantee a right to a radio show, a tv show, a newspaper column, a website, or a stage show. It says that you can say things and the government has no right to squelch that speech.

Why do people not understand this? Conservatives, upset at the growing advertiser boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s hate speech, insist his first amendment rights are being infringed upon. No, they aren’t. Limbaugh is as free as a bird to be as hateful and misogynistic as he wants to be. That said, if people object to his speech and communicate those sentiments to his advertisers and they in turn choose to disassociate themselves from him — nobody’s rights are being infringed.

The market that conservatives claim to love so much, is in fact working.

Karl Rove Flips Out At Occupy Baltimore Protesters: ‘Who Gave You The Right To Occupy America?’

One can easily revert the question back to Rove:

Who gave YOU and Bushco the right to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan?

Think Progress

Last night, former Bush official Karl Rove appeared at Johns Hopkins University to speak as a part of the annual Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium. Rove soon discovered that he wasn’t going to deliver his right-wing rhetoric unopposed, as a cry of “Mic Check!” rang out among the audience.

“Karl Rove is the architect of Occupy Iraq, the architect of Occupy Afghanistan!” yelled the demonstrators. Occupy Baltimore had infiltrated the crowd and began chanting against Rove. “Who gave you the right to occupy America?” asked Rove to the protesters, apparently unaware of the Bill of Rights. As they repeated their slogan, “We are the 99 percent!” Rove petulantly responded, “No you’re not!” He snidely added, “You wanna keep jumping up and yelling that you’re the 99 percent? How presumptuous and arrogant can you think are!” Watch Occupy Baltimore confront Rove:

About 15 protesters were asked to leave and some were forcibly removed. No one was arrested.

Related articles

Michele Bachmann Walks Out On Town Hall Meeting Because Of Protesters

The Huffington Post

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was interrupted by Occupy Wall Street protesters while speaking on foreign policy during a stop in South Carolina on Thursday.

Mount Pleasant Patch reports that Bachmann was in the middle of her remarks when the incident occurred. The conservative congresswoman was escorted off stage amid the disturbance, which was caused by demonstrators in the audience.

Mount Pleasant Patch relays part of a prepared statement read by the protesters:

“This will only take a minute. We have a message for Mrs. Bachmann. You capitalize on dividing Americans. Claiming people that disagree with you are unpatriotic socialists. And you promote discrimination. This does not help the American People.”

After the interruption, Bachmann returned to the stage. She quipped, “Don’t you love the First Amendment?”

Related articles

Federal Appeals Court Suggests Rep. Chabot’s Town Hall Camera Ban Violated The Constitution

Think Progress

Last week, Rep. Steven Chabot (R-OH) banned ordinary citizens from bringing cameras into a town hall meeting — even having police confiscate cameras from citizens who dared to violate this rule. Bizarrely, Chabot still allowed reporters to bring in cameras and record the event.

Coincidentally, just four days after Chabot took this extraordinary measure to prevent embarrassing clips of him from appearing on YouTube, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit handed down an opinion saying citizens have a right to film police engaged in their official duties. The court’s reasoning, however, has very clear implications for Chabot’s camera ban:

Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.” Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.’” [...]

The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. [...] The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

Chabot might take some small comfort in the fact that he does not reside in the First Circuit — Ohio is part of the much more conservative Sixth Circuit — but Chabot should not expect the right-leaning judges on his home circuit court to bail him out. As the First Circuit notes, at least three other appeals courts and numerous trial courts agree with their holding that government officials cannot simply ban cameras.

Moreover, Chabot’s case is weakened by his entirely arbitrary rule that only media may bring in cameras. While it is possible to imagine official government actions where no cameras should be present — a meeting of top-level national security officials, for example — Chabot’s willingness to allow some people to bring cameras and not others gives the lie to his already-weak claim that there is a legitimate reason to keep his town hall secret.

Related articles

Supreme Court: Violent video games may be sold to children

With the current 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States, corporations once again rule over women, children and campaign finance laws.  This is one of the main reasons why Barack Obama should must be re-elected.  We need to tip the balance in favor of progressive thinkers on the Court. 

The only way to do that is with a Democrat in the White House.  Otherwise, the consequences of having a Republican as POTUS can and will be catastrophic for our Democracy.

Raw Story

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a proposed California law that would have banned the sale of violent video games to minors.

In a 7-2 ruling, both liberal and conservative justices agreed that the video games qualify for First Amendment protections.

“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas-and even social messages-through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world),” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court’s majority opinion (PDF).

“That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, ‘esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature… are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority,'” he added.

Justice Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer disagreed with the court’s majority.

“The practices and beliefs of the founding generation establish that ‘the freedom of speech,’ as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians,” Thomas wrote. ” I would hold that the law at issue is not facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and reverse and remand for further proceedings.”

[H/T: USA Today]