Texas attack shows how US protects free speech – no matter how offensive

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/06/texas-shootings-free-speech-constitution

Critics say Pamela Geller’s event was provocative and arguably crossed the line into hate speech – but protections afforded by the first amendment are unique

in New York
Wednesday 6 May 2015

The fatal shootings in Garland, Texas, of two extremist gunmen as they attacked an anti-Islamist meeting was a vivid reminder of the virtually unique protections afforded by the US constitution to free speech, no matter how hate-filled or provocative, according to prominent first amendment experts.

In many countries across Europe and around the world, Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, who organized the event in Garland, might have fallen foul of hate speech laws such as the UK’s 1986 public order act or article 266(b) of Denmark’s criminal code.

Coming just two months after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, commenters the world over have said Geller’s decision to stage the Texas cartoon competition – participants were invited to draw the prophet Muhammad, with a top prize of $10,000 – was clearly provocative and arguably crossed the line into hate speech.

Geller herself has a long history of inflammatory acts toward the Muslim community.

But there was never any question of the Muhammad event being barred, leading US constitutional scholars say, for the simple reason that the first amendment offers an almost watertight protection of public speech.

Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe said the Garland attack illustrated a major difference in free speech law between the US and almost every other country in the world.

“Most other nations recognize a category of hateful speech that is likely to trigger outrage and even retaliation, but the first amendment has for many decades been interpreted to allow speakers like Pamela Geller to spread their disturbing messages to the world at large,” Tribe said.

While some aspects of US constitutional law are ambiguous or blurry, the first amendment is crystal clear on this issue. The government is prohibited from punishing hate speech or language that might incite lawlessness unless the words are specifically and deliberately directed at a particular target and likely imminently to trigger violence.

Given all the legal hurdles that a prosecution would have to clear in order to be successful, actions to block public events or censor hate-filled publications are virtually extinct in modern America. Legal scholars such as Tribe date the ascendancy of the first amendment in this area to the 1969 case of Brandenburg v Ohio in which a Ku Klux Klan leader was convicted under Ohio law for holding a rally with participants in full Klan regalia parading around burning crosses and vowing “revengeance” against the N-word and Jews.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/06/texas-shootings-free-speech-constitution

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Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/117461327725

Robert Reich
Sunday, April 26, 2015

A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said.

A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said.

Someone I met in North Carolina a few weeks ago told me he had stopped voting because elected officials don’t respond to what average people like him think or want. “They don’t listen,” he said.

What connects these dots? As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel.

The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable. I hear it over and over: They don’t care; our voices don’t count.

A large part of the reason is we have fewer choices than we used to have. In almost every area of our lives, it’s now take it or leave it.

Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs because most working people have no choice. They need work and must take what they can get.

Although jobs are coming back from the depths of the Great Recession, the portion of the labor force actually working remains lower than it’s been in over thirty years – before vast numbers of middle-class wives and mothers entered paid work.

Which is why corporations can get away with firing workers without warning, replacing full-time jobs with part-time and contract work, and cutting wages. Most working people have no alternative.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/117461327725

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Texas Police Kill Gunmen at Exhibit Featuring Cartoons of Muhammad

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/us/gunmen-killed-after-firing-on-anti-islam-groups-event.html?_r=3

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Neil Gaiman stands up for Charlie Hebdo: “For f**k’s sake, they drew somebody and they shot them, and you don’t get to do that”

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2015/05/05/neil_gaiman_stands_up_for_charlie_hebdo_for_fks_sake_they_drew_somebody_and_they_shot_them_and_you_dont_get_to_do_that/

Gaiman, Art Spiegelman and Alison Bechdel on why comics are so controversial — and why they must be defended


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When six writers withdrew in protest from PEN American Center’s annual fundraising gala last week, they set off a long and lively discussion of free expression and its limits. At issue is the Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award that PEN is tonight bestowing on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, eight of whose staff members were killed, along with four other people, when gunmen sent by the militant Islamist group al-Qaida in Yemen assaulted their offices earlier this year. The dissenting six were soon joined by more than 200 other PEN members, who signed a letter objecting to “enthusiastically rewarding” the magazine because they consider its cartoons of the prophet Mohammed to be offensive to Muslims.

But those six writers also left six empty chairs at the event, chairs ordinarily occupied by well-known literary figures who serve as “table hosts.” Over the weekend, six other writers stepped forward to fill those seats. They include journalist George Packer, “Reading Lolita in Tehran” author Azar Mafisi and Alain Mabanckou, a Congolese-born French author who will present the award to Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief.

The other three are all celebrated comics artists: Art Spiegelman, Neil Gaiman and Alison Bechdel. Spiegelman, author of the legendary graphic novel “Maus,” had read that some PEN members had floated the idea of standing up and turning their backs when the award was presented, or hissing. “I thought, that’s obscene,” he said on the telephone yesterday. “I talked to a few friends, and Alison and Neil Gaiman were able and willing to come. Matt Groening [creator of “The Simpsons”] tried to come but he was in production this week. I thought it would be great to have someone to shout out, ‘Cartoonists’ lives matter!’ when the award is being given if anybody dared hiss it.”

Cartoonists tend to stick together because they have to; as Gaiman points out, their work is disproportionately singled out for suppression both abroad and in the U.S., while at the same time often regarded as not “serious” enough to deserve a full-throttle defense. “I spent 12 years on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund,” Gaiman told me, “for which I was fighting on a daily basis to keep people who had written, drawn, published, sold or owned comics out of prison and from losing their livelihood for having drawn something that upset somebody.”

Cartoonists are particularly vulnerable when addressing Islam, as some (but not all) Muslims believe that it is sacrilegious to depict their prophet visually in any way. This is not a threat limited to Europe. Earlier this year, CNN reported that the Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris is still in hiding, four years after she attracted death threats for drawing non-satirical images of Mohammed on a teacup and thimble and domino. Her name recently appeared on the most-wanted list of the al-Qaida magazine Inspire.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2015/05/05/neil_gaiman_stands_up_for_charlie_hebdo_for_fks_sake_they_drew_somebody_and_they_shot_them_and_you_dont_get_to_do_that/

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Hillary Clinton Calls For ‘Toppling’ The 1 Percent

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/21/hillary-clinton-calls-for_0_n_7108026.html?ir=Business&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000015


04/21/2015

Hillary Clinton believes that strengthening the middle class and alleviating income inequality will require “toppling” the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, according to a New York Times profile published on Tuesday.

The Times article quoted a host of Clinton confidants characterizing Clinton’s economic policy record as a populist agenda akin to that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). That includes a view that the ongoing accumulation of massive wealth at the top of the spectrum is holding back the broader economy.

In a meeting with economists this year, Mrs. Clinton intensely studied a chart that showed income inequality in the United States. The graph charted how real wages, adjusted for inflation, had increased exponentially for the wealthiest Americans, making the bar so steep it hardly fit on the chart.

Mrs. Clinton pointed at the top category and said the economy required a “toppling” of the wealthiest 1 percent, according to several people who were briefed on Mrs. Clinton’s policy discussions but could not discuss private conversations for attribution.

The Clinton campaign told HuffPost they could not confirm the precise language of the quote, but did not distance themselves from its populist essence.

“No one in the room remembers this quote, and it doesn’t sound like language she’d use,” a Clinton aide emailed to HuffPost. “That said, our economy was nearly toppled in 2008 because the deck was stacked for those at the top and Hillary Clinton has said she’s running to reshuffle the deck for everyday Americans so that it doesn’t topple again and people can actually get ahead. It’s a belief at the core of her entire career fighting and at the core of this campaign.”

But while Clinton may be focusing on the wealthy, the Times article also seemed to underscore a lingering tension between some of her top advisers and Warren herself.

One anonymous Clinton adviser gave the Times a research memo championing Clinton’s career in economic policy making, while dismissing Warren as a “footnote.” Gene Sperling, a long-time economic adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama appeared to criticize Warren as an ineffective attack dog.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/21/hillary-clinton-calls-for_0_n_7108026.html?ir=Business&ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000015

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American Psychological Association Emails Expose Direct Ties to CIA Torture Program

This is the same APA that has a history of abusing LGBT people.

Press Release

From Physicians for Human Rights: http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/press/press-releases/american-psychological-association-emails-expose-direct-ties-to-cia-torture-program.html

New York, NY – 04/30/2015

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) again urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the American Psychological Association’s (APA) complicity in the CIA torture program, following a new report in today’s New York Times. Internal emails obtained by Times reporter James Risen clearly show that the APA secretly modified its ethics policy to endorse psychologist participation in torture, with the aid of CIA and White House personnel.

“This calculated undermining of professional ethics is unprecedented in the history of U.S. medical practice and shows how the CIA torture program corrupted other institutions in our society,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “Psychologists must never use their knowledge of human behavior to harm or undermine individuals. The Justice Department must look into any crimes or violations that may have been committed. It’s equally critical for psychologists to reclaim the principles of their profession and to reassert the values of human rights in psychology.”

PHR has repeatedly called on the APA to clarify its ties to the CIA torture program and its architects, including CIA contract psychologists James Mitchell (a former APA member) and Bruce Jessen. PHR said it looked forward to the findings of an independent investigation into the APA’s collusion with the CIA expected in summer 2015. In the meantime, there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to warrant a Department of Justice investigation.

PHR first called for an investigation into APA ethics policies in 2009, after a leaked APA email listserv revealed that most members of the secret 2005 APA Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) had U.S. military and intelligence affiliations. Since then, additional email disclosures and related analysis – including articles by Risen – have exposed coordinated efforts by APA, CIA, and White House officials to bring key portions of APA ethics policy in line with the legal and operational needs of the George Bush-era torture program.

“By revising its ethics policies in order to align with the CIA’s torture practices, the American Psychological Association effectively endorsed psychologist participation in CIA torture,” said Widney Brown, PHR’s director of programs. “This supported the Bush administration’s spurious claim that brutal interrogation practices were ‘safe, effective, and legal.’ The APA’s complicity is a betrayal of the fundamental duty of all health professionals – to do no harm.”

Risen’s latest article discloses the purpose behind the changes made to the APA’s ethics policy, drawing on a new analysis by a team of independent psychological, medical, and human rights experts. The APA’s 2005 PENS Task Force policy revisions reversed a longstanding policy to specifically endorse psychologist research into and monitoring of interrogations – including defining “what constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” This language comported with the then still-classified Department of Justice “torture memos,” which concluded that certain techniques would not violate the ban on “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” if subjected to medical monitoring. Yet, at the time, the CIA Office of Medical Services objected to playing such a role. This legal indemnification strategy was therefore written into APA ethics policy, with the direct involvement of the CIA and a former behavioral science advisor for the Bush White House.

Since 2005, PHR has documented the systematic use of psychological and physical torture of national security detainees by U.S. personnel in a series of groundbreaking reports. Dr. Stephen Soldz, lead author of the APA email analysis referenced in the New York Times article, is anti-torture advisor to PHR and has collaborated on several of the reports. PHR has repeatedly called for an end to the torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the United States, a federal investigation into the role of health professionals in the U.S. torture program, and full criminal and professional accountability for any health professionals found to have participated.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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America, Land of Opportunity, Where a Rabbi Can Be Just as much of a Bigot as the Taliban Christians

RWW News: Jonathan Cahn Warns That God Will Punish America For Legalizing Gay Marriage

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