Thanks for the info young Mr. Snowden, but you are a traitor…

July 1, 2013

The government is spying on us, tapping into our phone calls and email. That is chilling. It’s like we have the Gestapo or the Stasi or the KGB or whatever. It’s like the George Orwell police state come true.

And we can thank the misguided young man Edward Snowden for this information. As you know, he worked for a private security outfit connected to the government and then blew the whistle on all this.

But as I say he is apparently misguided. He either wittingly or unwittingly, maybe in his desperation and confusion, has become a traitor to his country, the United States of America.

He must be rather ignorant of history if he thinks Russia, the old Soviet Union, will offer him a better deal than America, or if any other of our detractors or not so friendly nations will.

If what he was doing for the government or what he was involved in bothered his conscience he should have resigned and maybe seen a lawyer — a good one, and then figured out what to do.

I doubt that he was a plant of enemy agents but he has made himself appear that way.

Maybe our government (the USA) should offer him some kind of immunity if he just agrees to come back and maybe meet with representatives of the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as intelligence officials (part of the executive branch really) and talk things out. I’m not sure on that, just an idea.

He may have done nearly irreparable harm to our intelligence programs. And we need intelligence — it is a dangerous world with many bad actors ready to do us all harm.

But we cannot completely sacrifice our freedom for security. We don’t want the all-powerful state (the government) to rule us by fear that each one of us could be arrested for subversive thoughts or actions, even when we are just practicing our right to freedom of speech and expression (and in a police state, even totally innocent people get caught in the net). Becoming Nazi Germany or the Old Soviet Union with people spying on our private lives and people ratting on each other for their own advantage would defeat the purpose of what we are trying to protect — our freedom.

Yes I know that President Obama has assured us that the government is not spying on you or me, just bad people. But when he was asked for specifics about how it is determined who will be spied upon he gave one of the longest and most ambiguous answers I have ever heard. I realize that to give away to the bad actors what our methods are can be counterproductive but I also have come to believe that our intelligence gathering has gone out of control and we are approaching a real police state. And it is not worth it.

High Court wrong on protecting Westboro’s vile actions…

March 2, 2011

While I would not want to see our free speech rights eroded and while I think that our First Amendment right to free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy I do not see why the U.S. Supreme Court felt it had to rule in favor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, whose members picket at or near military funerals with signs that proclaim such vile messages as “thank God for dead soldiers” and “God hates the USA”.


An original story on the ruling:


I’m not at all sure what they really believe in, but apparently part of their twisted view of life is that God is punishing the U.S. for tolerating or accepting homosexuality. And as I understand it, they don’t just picket funerals of gay soldiers, although if they did that would not make it any better.

It has long been held that even free speech is not unlimited. One is not protected by the First Amendment for yelling fire in a crowded theatre (and I am not sure whether it makes a difference whether there really is a fire or not — but that’s not the point here).

I have not yet read what the justices actually wrote in their opinion, but I would think that someone who disturbs family members and others paying their last respects to a fallen soldier would be in violation of disturbing the peace at a bare minimum, along with violating the family’s right to privacy, as well as being liable for torts such as creating emotional distress.


ADD 1 (March 3, 2011): Okay I have now read, well at least scanned over, the court’s opinion and ruling. I have not changed my mind. I tend to agree with the lone dissenting justice, Samuel Alito, in this case (it was an 8-1 ruling).


And if the question is over the nation’s war policy (and I really don’t care what the Westboro Church thinks after their vile actions against dead soldiers and their families and friends), I don’t think anyone with any decency — no matter what their war views — would mock the dead or their families or root for the enemy.

Free speech rights present a tough issue for courts. You can’t just bar speech because you don’t agree with it or it makes you uncomfortable. But there is such a thing as human decency, and I think the Westboro Church has crossed the line and I think the high court was wrong on this one.


ADD 2:

Here is a link to the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts:

Sarah Palin: you have a right to free speech, but have you no shame?

January 13, 2011

It’s too bad someone could not stand up to Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Rush Limburger Cheese and their ilk and say to them what that Army counsel said to Sen. Joseph McCarthy all those years ago: “… Have you no shame? Have you no sense of decency?…”

(Okay, I’ve now read the actual quote was, in part: “… Have you no sense of decency…? At long last have you no sense of decency?” )

Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, whose head was made a symbolic target by Palin, darling of the Tea Party set, is critically wounded, a federal judge and several others, six in all, dead and some 20 people in all shot and all they can think to do is circle the wagons around their constant inflammatory rhetoric — and it is just that, rhetoric with little to no substance — and use the whole tragic event to continue to charge that people want to take guns away from American citizens, violating their Second Amendment rights, and to prevent Tea Partiers and others from exercising free speech.

It is not Sarah Palin’s fault that a deranged young man who had reportedly spouted off incomprehensible statements and posted disturbing stuff online took it upon himself to be an assassin. But certainly if she had any decency she would be contrite and publicly express some contrition (or at least shut up) about her own actions.

As everyone who follows such stuff knows, Palin had before the last election posted maps of various congressional districts with the cross hairs of gun sights overlaying the heads of various office holders, including Giffords, she felt the Republicans and Tea Party should go after (bring down in electoral defeat).

Because the issue of gun rights is such a hot button and such a draw, particularly among the far right, she used the analogy of the target range or hunting or war in her call for political victory over said opponents.

In a most tragic irony, the gravely wounded Tucson, Arizona area congresswoman, Giffords, was one of those with the Palin target on her head.

Then last Saturday (Jan. 8, 2011) one Jared Lee Loughner, 22, of Tucson, without warning, shot Congresswoman Giffords and the others in a shopping mall parking lot near a Safeway store while the congresswoman was meeting with constituents.

So does Palin lay low or offer quiet and circumspect apology? Well, she did lay low for a few days, but then in the modern, and particularly Palin style, she posted a video response where she can talk and not have to respond in person to any troubling questions.

I watched the video (as much as I could stomach). She seemed to be charging that her opponents were using the incident to stifle her — and to a limited extent she might be correct.

(In a New York Times article and elsewhere she was sniped at for using the term “blood libel” (you can look that one up), which she claimed described what she was being subjected to. On that I just felt she or her script writers were just using a little acceptable license in a kind of analogistic word play. But the disturbing thing is the fact either Palin or her detractors might see it appropriate to dwell on the ongoing political tug of war rather than the tragedy itself and how to prevent such things from happening, to the extent they can be prevented in a free and gun-toting society.

I think she could have defended her free speech rights and at the same time expressed sorrow that she had ever used the device of the targets, while assuring everyone she in no way meant it literally.

While I doubt Palin’s actions, or her actions alone at least, are what incited the nut case to act, it’s those type of actions that create an atmosphere in which certain nutcases are prompted to act. And it sets an evil, ugly tone in society that we would not want the younger and future generations to emulate or adopt. (And even though the nut case seemed to have been following  Palin’s right-wing-driven lead, some have described his rantings as left wing — but really there is not much difference between rants from the extremes.


In a bizarre twist to this whole thing, the suspect in last Saturday’s shooting tragedy in Tucson had been pulled over for running a red light, I understand, just before the incident. Kind of similar to the Oklahoma federal building bomber being pulled over for a traffic violation after the fact with no immediate connection made by law enforcement, which is all meaningless, except that it goes to show the police are not all-knowing — would you want them to be? We don’t want the police state.

On one extreme all would carry guns and be shooting it out with each other and in the other extreme the black helicopters would be circling and all citizens would be stripped of their weapons and personal rights. It’s extremism from all the political angles that is the danger.

Common decency should overrule free speech considerations at a funeral…

October 6, 2010

Free speech rights are probably among if not the most important rights we have as a free people. I mean if you can’t say what you think you can hardly call yourself free. But while I certainly see there is a slippery slope leading away from First Amendment free speech rights anytime a court rules against some type of free speech behavior I see no threat to liberty by a court ruling a father can sue for damages against a so-called church group who protested at his soldier son’s funeral, saying such things as “God hates you” (for serving in Iraq).

Initially, the father won a multi-million judgment in a lower court only to have it overturned at a higher court level. Now the case is before the U.S. Supreme Court, and a story I just read said the justices are ”struggling” with the issue of whether you can limit free speech rights in such a case.

This all revolves around the despicable actions of something called the Westboro Baptist Church, whose pastor and members protest against U.S. Middle East war activities at funerals of dead soldiers.

While I know it is the job of the justices on the high court to think hard (and I am glad they do), maybe sometimes you can analyze something too hard.

Common decency would seem to dictate to me that one does not protest at a funeral.

At the same time I would not argue at all that these protestors could not carry signs that say such vile things as “God hates you”, just not at the poor soldier’s funeral. End of story.


I know. What then constitutes a funeral? The ceremony at a church? graveside services? A procession down a public street? Well that is why we have courts. But let’s hope that retaining freedom does not entail throwing out common decency.

Even with freedom of the press, do we really need to give a crazy reverend a platform?

September 9, 2010

I’m not usually one to get down on the news media publishing or broadcasting things, especially since I believe in freedom of the press and since I also worked for many years as a journalist and besides news is news whether one likes it or not.

But I would not mind if some of the major news outlets played down the story of this nut case The Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida who plans to burn copies of the Quran (Koran), the holy book of the religion of Islam. Should the crazy so-called preacher be given a platform?

In addition I am not sure but whether there are grounds for some type of law enforcement action or court injunction against him on perhaps such charges as inciting a riot, disturbing the peace or even civil rights violations, seeing as such action might be akin to the KKK conducting a cross burning. I’m not sure that a cross burning that is not on someone’s front lawn and is designed to terrorize particular victims is against the law, but everyone knows what the idea of such things are. And then of course there is also the fire safety issue concerning the planned Quran burning set for the anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday.

Another strange thing I have noticed is that this crazy reverend in the photos I have seen bears a striking resemblance to the late Buddy Ebsen of Beverly Hillbillies fame — my apologies to Mr. Ebsen’s memory.

I do not say that the story of all of this should not be reported. It is a legitimate story concerning the ongoing controversy over world-wide terrorism and its connection with Islam and whether it is really a part of Islam or just concerns actions taken by those hiding behind the shield of Islam. And certainly if a lot of people were to take part, it would be a major news story.

But for now it basically seems to be something about a weirdo who claims to be a man of God and who may in reality be using this as a publicity stunt because he and his church and other enterprises have money problems.

And I have to ask anyone who would do this, burn Qurans, what is the difference between burning one religion’s holy book and another’s. Should not Moslems (or Muslims) then burn the Holy Bible?

There is also the question of what this action does for the safety of military personnel and others. It is one more excuse for terrorists and their sympathizers to attack Americans, although they probably are not waiting for another excuse.

I am glad that so many people, religious leaders included, have condemned what one obviously demented man wants to do.


ADD 1:

Since I posted the original version President Obama has spoken out against the planned Quran burning. Of course the crazies among  us will just say he’s a Muslim anyway (and for the record, as far as anyone of intelligence knows, unless he is a secret or closet Muslim, he is actually a professed Christian only).


The only good thing out of all of this may be that the rest of the world can both see that most Americans do not approve (I hope that is so) but at the same time we have so much freedom here that the man is safe to do it anyway (what I suggested notwithstanding).

ADD 2:

I guess you can’t unring a bell, so this hate monger of a reverend already got what he wanted — he is news, with even the president commenting upon his planned action. But news as pure entertainment has certainly cheapened news.

Palin lacks faith in democracy and quits when going gets tough…

July 6, 2009

Sarah Palin claims she is quitting her governorship of Alaska in part because she wants to effect change by working outside of government. I’m not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean. In this nation public policy is supposed to be made by the democratically (small d) elected government.

There is such a thing as lobbying – private interests who work to influence government. So maybe that is what she means.

Apparently she would rather help pressure government to do things from the outside, hoping to avoid public scrutiny – raise money, work behind the scenes, whip up the base with demogoguery by spouting off narrow-minded hot button issues that appeal more to emotion than rational public policy or accuse anyone who does not agree with her message of lacking patriotism. She could drum up money with her fanatical appeal to further her policy aims — whatever they might be — or to buy fancy clothes for herself and her family as she did with Republican Party funds when she ran with John McCain. Last I heard SarahPac or whatever it is called was still accepting donations.

Maybe she just means she is going to work on behalf of other candidates, but those candidates would be working directly in government.

And maybe she thinks there ought to be some power out there beyond government because she does not agree with the majority of voters at this time.

She claims to have been mistreated by the press. Well join the ranks of all those in public life. That is the ugly price that is paid for freedom of speech. We can’t just arrest people who may say things we don’t like, such as might be done in Iran. And it is true that freedom of the press, guaranteed in the First (the very first mind you) Amendment to the Constitution carries with it the annoying aspect of sometimes protecting those who distort the truth or tell outright lies (including Sarah Palin). Unfortunately, it’s the only way to guarantee an actual free press (and press these days means all types of public dissemination of thoughts and information – there are fewer and fewer newspapers).

Palin through a lawyer has reportedly threatened a blogger with a lawsuit over defamation of character. I think even Palin is aware of the First Amendment but thinks anything unfavorable to her is not covered.

Thanks to a Supreme Court decision called New York Times vs. Sullivan (1964), public figures have a higher standard to meet when trying to prove defamation and libel. It could be done if it is shown a person acted with reckless disregard for the truth and actual malice. But in the blogger’s case, as I understand it, it involved repeating a rumor or rumors that have been circulating about Palin for years, something about awarding construction contracts and personally benefitting when she was Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. True? Have no idea. Rumors can be a troubling thing and are often unfair. But if in public life rumors were illegal we’d never find out anything and real corruption would never be investigated. Word from rumors is often how investigations get started and/or how those in power are forced to look into things.

What Palin must be trying to do is intimidate opponents or anyone who might hold her up to public scrutiny. As evidenced by her VP campaign, her mode is to be able to say a lot of things but be questioned very little (and no wonder, have you ever heard her respond to questions?).

Palin also made a weird comment about quitting the governorship (half way through her term) because she did not want to waste the taxpayers’ money by being a lame duck. If she ran again, she would not be a lame duck. And does she mean that anyone who is voted into office should simply quit at the point he or she may not get his or her way? And does she not have an obligation to those who voted for her? I’m not understanding all of this.

(Add 1: An Anchorage Daily News editorial lauded Palin’s accomplishments as governor but said her explanation about not wanting to be a lame duck was “more lame than duck”.)

And I personally detest the political strategy that allows candidates (or potential candidates) to make a lot of noise, make accusations, distort the truth, but then allows them to hide from questions under the guise that questioners are only trying to discredit them – that is sometimes true, but what other way is there? Have FOX news lob leading softball questions to you? Or for that matter have CNN ask leading softball questions? No if you run for political office you should be able to stand up to penetrating questions from all and let the public at large judge. The public is smarter than you think Sarah. Is that what you are afraid of?