Civil Liberties Roundup

While these roundups won’t focus directly on acts of terror, much of the debate regarding civil liberties stems from how we choose to respond to them. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, many were quick to point out that those supposedly standing up for the ideals of free expression don’t exactly have that ideal in all circumstances.

Shortly after the attacks, the French arrested comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala for writing that he sympathized with Jewish supermarket attacker Charlie Coulibaly. As disgusting as that sentiment is, it shouldn’t be a crime merely to have an unpopular opinion. And thankfully in the United States, it isn’t.

The allure of these laws is obvious – a desire to combat racism in general by trying to outlaw individual instances of it. But the failure of these laws isn’t just a matter of poor implementation. It’s simply impossible for any government to draw that line without a strong subjective bias. One person’s biting satire will always be another person’s offensive broadside. Trying to criminalize the latter without infringing upon the former is an impossible task. The logical end is a system where some extreme views are penalized while others are overlooked, a process that often exacerbates the underlying racial issues you’re trying to address in the first place.

Of course, the extremism exhibited by the Charlie Hebdo attackers is of a far more repugnant variety, one that doesn’t even make an attempt at pluralism. The idea that one’s religious beliefs give them the right to dictate everyone else’s speech and behavior is a far more toxic ideology than the state-based variety above. And the co-mingling of that type of religious decree and the unrestrained government power defines a number of the worst regimes around the world, who will be featured in these roundups a lot.

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Washington State Politics Is Boring

New York political bloggers/reporters have all the fun:

The speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Thursday and accused of using the power of his office for more than a decade to secure millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks and then covering up his schemes, according to court documents.

Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, is accused of a range of corrupt dealings that capitalized on his official position. They include using his position to obtain corrupt payments misrepresented as referral fees from a law firm, funneling state research funds and other benefits to a doctor who in return referred asbestos claims to the law firm where the speaker worked, and secretly helping real estate developers win tax breaks.

Say what you want about Washington State House speaker Frank Chopp, but he’s not corrupt. Hell, as loathsome as they are, not even our Republicans are corrupt (at least not in any legally actionable sense of the word). I suppose our relatively scandal-free politics is a good thing, but it sure does make it boring to cover.

I Doubt Many Progressive Democrats Will Find Much to Disagree with Kshama Sawant’s Socialist SOTU Response

Perhaps it was a surge in demand that brought down the Seattle Channel’s live stream (or perhaps it was a Comcast/Centurylink conspiracy), but for those of you who missed all or most of council member Kshama Sawant’s Socialist response to the president’s State of the Union address, I’ve embedded the entirety, courtesy of YouTube.

My challenge to my fellow members of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is: Watch Sawant’s speech and tell me what you disagree with apart from maybe your knee-jerk defense of the president and your discomfort at her call for an alternative to the Democratic Party. Seriously… don’t you wish more Democrats would talk this way?

Licata to Retire, City Council to Grow More Conservative

It’s no surprise really, but Seattle City Council member Nick Licata officially announced today that he will not seek reelection in November:

“I’ve been lucky to have an exciting life filled with challenges taken on voluntarily, not out of hardship.

“Perhaps the greatest challenge we all face is the need to improve the lives of Americans who are seeing their future increasingly impeded by the outrageous growing concentration of wealth, and I would add power, in this nation.

“No one city can resolve this problem. But Seattle has done much in attempting to do so. I would like to play more of an active role in that effort. And see what I can do to have Seattle’s accomplishments duplicated elsewhere.

“I hope after my current term ends this year that I may have that opportunity in some capacity. So, I will not seek re-election.

It’s a shame, really. Long the most liberal member of the council, Licata’s energy and influence had arguably faded in recent years, but Kshama Sawant’s election as an honest-to-godless socialist appeared to reinvigorate him. 2014 was a very good year for Licata and his issues. He’ll be missed.

If Licata’s retirement was making room for bringing some young blood to the council, I suppose I’d feel more sanguine about the prospect of replacing an old white guy. But it won’t play out that way. The move to district elections had put Licata in the position of running against another incumbent, either Mike O’Brien in District 6, or more likely Sally Clark in one of the two at-large seats. So Licata’s retirement just makes the other incumbents more secure, and the council as a whole more conservative by subtraction.

Live Blogging the SOTU

Goldy is live tweeting, so hell, I’ll live blog. Please join the fun in the comment thread.

We’ve got MSNBC on the tube here.

6:07: Obama is in the house.

6:08: Let’s try embedding a Goldy tweet:

6:10: Boehner still sounds drunk…

6:12: Goldy’s first verbal comment during Obama’s speech: “Look how grey he is”.

6:14: “The shadow of crisis has passed…” Okay…

6:16: Why the fuck do Presidents throw these stupid anecdotes into the SOTU?

6:18: Carl Ballard: “People almost always agree with cliches.”

6:18: Man…maybe it is MSNBC pulling tricks, but Boehner looks a LOT darker than Obama…

6:21: Did Obama just pull a Palin?!?!

6:23: ANOTHER ANECDOTE?!? WTF…did Shrub’s speech writer contribute to this??

6:34: My inner fashion nazi asks, “Is Michelle wearing some kind of armor?!?”

6:39: Precision medicine? How about just more accurate medicine?

6:49: Cuba: I think Marco Rubio’s head just exploded….

6:53: Climate: “Obama is trying to confuse us with numbers and facts and stuff.”

6:54: “We commit to cutting the population of Gitmo in half” But, but, but…isn’t that TORTURE???

7:26: Let the squealing begin!

7:29: “…higher monthly insurance bills….failed policies like ObamaCare.” YOU LIE!

7:30: “Keystone Jobs Bill” Um…somebody tell Joni about the Keystone jobs expectations.

7:40: The DL communists are now streaming Kshama Sawant.

8:02: Sawant’s live stream started but there is troubles with the livestream. No doubt we can blame the troubles on some flunkie earning minimum wage….

My SOTU Plans: Live-Tweeting from Drinking Liberally, Live-Streaming the Sawant Response

The Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally is meeting a couple hours early tonight to watch the State of the Union address the way God intended: At a bar. The Roanoke Park Place Tavern to be exact. Please join me. Or if you don’t have the civic pride to join me at a bar, then follow my commentary on Twitter—it’s just like watching the SOTU with me in person, only more concise.

Afterwards, fuck the Republican response. Though I’ll probably watch anyway, if only to hurl insults. Rather, I’m looking forward to Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant once again live-streaming her official Socialist response to the president’s speech. Really. Listen in. I wager you’ll be surprised by how much of Sawant’s speech you agree with.

Another Religious Jihadist Switches from Democrat to Republican

Anti-abortion jihadist Martin Moore

Anti-abortion jihadist Martin Moore

Hey, Federal Way City Councilmember Martin Moore… don’t let the door hit you on the way out:

Like Miloscia, Moore said he no longer felt welcome in his former party as a “pro-life” Democrat opposed to abortion.

“The party has become so incredibly intolerant of people who might disagree with them on some issues,” Moore said in an interview.

Uh-huh. So Moore is lambasting the Democratic Party for being “incredibly intolerant” of his incredible intolerance. Because if you think about it, that’s exactly what Moore’s so-called “pro-life” stance is: An incredibly intolerant demand that the rest of us be legally barred from exercising our reproductive rights, on the grounds that abortion violates Moore’s own peculiar religious sensibilities. Sound familiar?

The morality of abortion is a religious issue. Don’t believe in it, don’t have one. I can tolerate that. Even respect it. But your religious convictions have no fucking place in our law.

Seattle Police Assault Outspoken Teacher. Get Away With It. As Usual.

Jesse Hagopian is an award-winning history teacher at Garfield High School, an author, an outspoken activist, and a leader of the fight against excessive school testing. And yesterday, near the end of the MLK Day march, he was assaulted by Seattle Police without provocation.

As Hagopian explains in further detail on his Facebook page:

I was marching for Martin Luther King day today–amazing march! At one point after the big main march, group of bike cops set up a line to keep us from marching. Some people walked through the line, but I didn’t. When my phone rang, I turned away from the cops and began walking away to answer the phone. A cop then ran up in my face and pepper sprayed me right in the face. The milk has helped a lot and I’m beginning to feel better. Wish we had a better world.

Hagopian is a public figure of sorts, a fixture at social justice rallies and protests, and a relatively frequent subject of media coverage. He’s not known to be violent in any way, but he is known to be a leader. So not having seen the incident, here’s my bit of informed conjecture as to what might have happened: The police recognized him, saw him reach for his phone, and suspected he might be organizing activities on the ground. So they disabled him.

That’s right. My guess is that the police pepper sprayed Hagopian in order to prevent him from using his phone.

I suppose it’s possible the officer in question is just an asshole who indiscriminately assaulted Hagopian for no apparent reason (or an asshole who recognized Hagopian and saw an opportunity to assault him just because), but in any case, the point is that once again an officer assaulted an innocent person and got away with it.

And yes, pepper spraying somebody in the face is assault. If I were to walk up to you and pepper spray you in the face, I would be charged with assault. And if I were to walk up to a Seattle police officer and pepper spray him in the face I would certainly be charged with assaulting a police officer (assuming I survived the encounter). But police have learned from experience that they have near absolute impunity to pepper spray anybody, with no legal consequences whatsoever. It’s gotten to the point where they even laugh about it. Pepper spray—It’s funny! Ha-ha!

Note that the officer didn’t run up to Hagopian and punch him in the face. That would have left a mark. He would’ve had to then arrest Hagopian and charge him with something (usually resisting arrest and/or assaulting a police officer) in order to avoid facing charges of his own—which, you know, is a hassle. So he pepper sprayed him.

And yes, I can only presume that Hagopian was innocent of any legal transgression, based on the fact that he was neither arrested nor charged. Which raises a related issue: The stunning number of citizens who are pepper sprayed (i.e. assaulted) by police and charged with absolutely nothing. No arrest. No charges. Nada. Because under our current rules of engagement, you apparently don’t have to engage in illegal behavior, present a danger to yourself or others, or refuse to comply with a legal order to be assaulted by the police. The caustic chemical burning your eyes is evidence enough that you were a valid target.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not totally opposed to pepper spray. I fully support its use as an alternative to deadly force. But its lazy and indiscriminate use as a means of crowd control or for forcing compliance from peaceful citizens should be a fucking crime.

SOTU at Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottlePlease join us tonight for a special State-of-the-Union edition of the Seattle Chapter of Drinking Liberally. Festivities are scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm sharp.

We meet every Tuesday evening, speech or no speech, at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. Our usual starting time–when there is no SOTU address–is 8:00 pm.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, WA, and Shelton chapters also meet. The Lakewood chapter meets on Wednesday. The Woodinville and Kent chapters meet this Thursday.

There are 181 chapters of Living Liberally, including sixteen in Washington state, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. Chances are excellent there’s a chapter meeting somewhere near you.

2,200. And That’s Just the Number of Idiot Gun Owners Who TSA Caught Last Year Trying to Carry a Gun Through Airport Security

About 2,200 guns were seized at TSA airport checkpoints last year, a 20 percent rise from the year before, and 230 percent more than 2005. And according to the New York Times, “a vast majority of the weapons were loaded and had bullets in the chamber.”

While defense attorneys and law enforcement officials said a vast majority of weapons cases at airports were honest mistakes, advocates of stricter gun laws said the number of incidents was alarming. “People say, ‘I’m so responsible with my gun,’ and here they are forgetting they have them in an airport where there are so many people and kids running around,” said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.

The case of a toddler fatally shooting his mother after fishing a gun out of her purse in an Idaho Walmart in December shows how easily tragedies can occur.

We need to start treating gun violations the way we treat DUIs. Even a minor violation should result in a suspended license; repeat violations should result the permanent suspension of one’s right to own and carry a gun. These aren’t tragic accidents. Most “accidental” shootings are the result of criminal negligence by people who simply can’t be trusted to responsibly own a gun.

HA Bible Study: Deuteronomy 23:12-14

Deuteronomy 23:12-14
Set up a place outside the camp to be used as a toilet area. And make sure that you have a small shovel in your equipment. When you go out to the toilet area, use the shovel to dig a hole. Then, after you relieve yourself, bury the waste in the hole. You must keep your camp clean of filthy and disgusting things. The LORD is always present in your camp, ready to rescue you and give you victory over your enemies. But if he sees something disgusting in your camp, he may turn around and leave.


Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Liberal Viewer: FAUX News IDIOT claims that no non-Muslims in Birmingham.

Lawrence O’Donnell: Steve Scalise’s “unbelievable” slavery explanations.

Mental Floss: 30 stories from behind the scenes of blockbusters.

The Republican War on Social Security:

James Rustad: I’m not your steppin’ stool.

Thom: FAUX News is wrong! America IS progressive.

Alex Wagner: SCOTUS primed for same sex marriage decision.

Maddow: Texas Republican Congressman apologizes for Obama/Hitler remark.

White House: Big Block of Cheese Day.

Steve Kornacki: Republicans eager to erode Wall Street Reform.

Jon explains Florida.

David Pakman: Anti-Science nutjobber Sen. Ted Cruz will oversee NASA.

Je Suis Charlie:

Mark Fiore: Whip Steve Scalise.

Ed: U.S. and England are united over Iran sanctions.

Mental Floss: Is blood ever blue?

Alex Wagner: Why deniers deny…2014 was the hottest year on Record.

Pap: Right wing extremism kills people.

Young Turks: Recreational vs medicinal marijuana…the Washington regulation debate.

Roll Call: SOTU Promo.

Sam Seder: FAUX News’ sad Petraeus conspiracy.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-9) “co-sponsors” a bill he strongly opposes. How to fix America.

2016 Presidential Wannabes:

People’s climate march: wrap up.

Young Turks: 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded.

David Pakman: Unemployment falls to 5.6% under Obama.

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about getting sick.

Pap: Republicans are too dysfunctional to lead.

David Pakman: “Freedom fries, boycott France” Republican hypocrites are “angry” Obama didn’t go to France:

Obama announces plan to expand broadband internet.

Maddow: Friday night news dump…weird bucket of stuff edition.

The Republican War on America’s Borders:

White House: West Wing Week.

Thom with The Good, The Bad, and The Very, Very Ugly.

Maddow: Anonymous v. ISIS.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The US House of Representatives passed a law repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that lets young people here without documentation a path to citizenship.

The House vote would put 600,000 so-called DREAMers back in danger of deportation.

An amendment, passed on a 218-209 vote, denies federal money or use of fees to enroll young people in the DACA program, and would not allow those already enrolled to renew.

This isn’t really a national blog, but I’m writing about it because I’m heartened by Patty Murray’s response: calling the vote “something horrible” casts it in moral terms as opposed to just well let’s have a difference of agreement. This is an important moral issue, and it’s important to say so. It’s important to raise our voices that, you know what, this is a really dickish thing to propose. And if it’s for political reasons or for what they actually believe, it’s still immoral. It’s still horrible. And it’s still worth calling out with that language.