TagCivil Liberties

Patriot Act used mostly for drug war, very little for war on terror

In the debate over the PATRIOT Act, the Bush White House insisted it needed the authority to search people’s homes without their permission or knowledge so that terrorists wouldn’t be tipped off that they’re under investigation.

Now that the authority is law, how has the Department of Justice used the new power? To go after drug dealers.

Only three of the 763 “sneak-and-peek” requests in fiscal year 2008 involved terrorism cases, according to a July 2009 report from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Sixty-five percent were drug cases.

Huffington Post: DoJ Official Blows Cover Off PATRIOT Act

Even if you’re found innocent, you can still do 15 years in prison

Not only have many defendants been sentenced for stuff the jury said they didn’t do (or at least wasn’t proven), but yesterday the Supreme Court refused to do anything about it. The cert denial came in the case of Mark Hurn of my hometown, Madison, Wis. Hurn ate 15 years extra years in prison for possessing crack cocaine, even though a jury acquitted him of the charge. It’s true. Though he was convicted of having powder cocaine in his house, (for which he was looking at two or three years in prison), he was sentenced to almost 18 years. Why? Because even though the jury acquitted him of the crack charge, the judge kind of figured he’d done it and therefore found, by a preponderance of the evidence that he’d done it, and sent him to prison as if the jury had actually said “Guilty” rather than “Not Guilty.”

Slate: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Another way to do the time even if you didn’t do the crime

(via The Agitator)

British government apologizes for appaling treatment of Alan Turing 55 years later

Alan Turing was a World War II code-breaker. He was also gay.

Fifty-five years after the mathematician committed suicide, Downing Street has apologised for the “appalling” way in which he was treated because of his sexuality.

According to Winston Churchill, Turing made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany.

His pivotal role in cracking intercepted messages helped the Allies to defeat the Nazis in several crucial battles.

BBC: Alan Turing Profile

Mexico decriminalizes small-scale drug possession

Mexico decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin on Friday — a move that prosecutors say makes sense even in the midst of the government’s grueling battle against drug traffickers.

Prosecutors said the new law sets clear limits that keep Mexico’s corruption-prone police from shaking down casual users and offers addicts free treatment to keep growing domestic drug use in check.

“This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty,” said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general’s office.

The new law sets out maximum “personal use” amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities no longer face criminal prosecution.

Raw Story: Mexico decriminalizes small-scale drug possession

(via Disinfo)

The Heretical Two

If a website is hosted in the United States but authored in another country, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? If a web site in favor of independence for Tibet were hosted in the United States but authored in China, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? What about a website in favor of women’s rights were hosted in the United States but authored in Iran? Most people I know would say that the free speech laws of the United States should trump the non-free speech laws of other countries. Most people I know would say that these websites should be allowed to continue to exist and that their authors should not be subject to criminal charges, either in the United States or in any other country. But when the free speech in question is in error or insulting then there are differences of opinion among those I know. Some laugh, some scowl and move on, some call for the free speech to be censored, some call for those practicing free speech to be punished.

England has laws that make ‘race hate’ literature illegal. The United States does not have such laws. Simon Sheppard [Wikipedia] of England publishes the website heretical.com out of Torrance, California. On Friday July 14, 2008 Sheppard was found guilty of eleven counts of ‘race hate’ relating to heretical.com. According to heretical.com the website was subject to British and not USA law because it was ‘available in England and Wales.’ What other websites originating in the USA are subject to British law because they are available in England and Wales? Perhaps my own, ovo127.com? Am I endangering my chances of visiting England again with this post?

OVO: The Heretical Two

I do not think that people should be jailed for hate speech. However, I believe a correction or clarification may be in order: Trevor quotes the claim that heretical.com is “‘irony, satire and parody of political correctness, intended in good humour and for the stimulation of debate.” Perhaps this is the case – hence their reprinting of Crumb’s clearly ironic comics. However, based on the general contents of the site, and Simon Sheppard’s background, it’s difficult to reach that conclusion. Which raises another issue – how does one differentiate between legitimate and ironic racist literature?

Jackie Chan’s freedom and control comments deliberately mistranslated?

Okay, the rampant Western media frenzy over Jackie Chan supposedly saying that “Chinese people still need to be controlled ” during a panel discussion at the Boao Forum in Hainan, China is…well, getting out of control. This is the kind of Western media bullshit that makes Westerners look like they’re frothing at the bits to use anything they can to paint China in a negative political light: “Oh look, even lovable kung-fu funny-man Jackie Chan has betrayed his own, selling out both himself and his kind to the evil Communist regime!” To which the Western masses reply in unison: “Gasp!”

The relevant excerpt from the Associated Press:

“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said. “I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”

Chan added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

And a Chinese report of what Jackie Chan said to foreign reporters:


He himself is now very conflicted with regards to whether freedom is better, or is not freedom is better, because if [people] are too free, it will be just like Taiwan and Hong Kong, which have become very disorderly. So, he has slowly come to feel/think that, “Chinese people still need to be regulated.”

Jackie Chan Said “Chinese Need To Be Controlled”, Or Did He?

I’m not sure what Chan said is much better than what he was reported as saying, but I’m far less sure of just what it is he actually said now.

(Thanks Sydney)

SubGenius mom still needs money for legal fees

Lesson: if you ever really want to fuck with someone (especially a parent), question the morality of their religion in court. You could cause this to happen to them:

But to lose my firstborn and only son, that was not fair. To be burdened with more debt than I could pay with ten years of my salary, that is not fair. To have been forced to leave my home and husband, and live alone in another state in order to attend endless court proceedings for nearly two years, that was not fair.

Now, thankfully, our family is finally back together, but the financial burden that remains is devastating, especially as the proceedings grind through their final appeals. No matter how hard we work, we just barely make it each month.

Read up on the history of the case, and donate

Magdalen’s latest letter

WTF Jackie Chan?

The actor told a forum on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, whose attendees included Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, he was not sure “freedom” was necessary.

Chan, 55, whose latest movie, Shinjuku incident, was banned in China, was asked about censorship and restriction on the mainland. He expanded his comments to discuss Chinese society in general.

“I’m not sure if it is good to have freedom or not,” he said. “I’m really confused now. If you are too free, you are like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”

He added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

His comments were applauded by the Chinese audience, but triggered fury in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Telegraph: Jackie Chan says Chinese people need to be ‘controlled’

Update: Chan’s comments may have been intentionally or unintentionally mistranslated.

The peasant mentality lives on in America

After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. Beck pointedly compared the AIG protesters to Bolsheviks: “[The Communists] basically said ‘Eat the rich, they did this to you, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” He then said the AIG and G20 protesters were identical: “It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same: Find ‘em, get ‘em, kill ‘em!’” Beck has an audience that’s been trained that the rich are not appropriate targets for anger, unless of course they’re Hollywood liberals, or George Soros, or in some other way linked to some acceptable class of villain, to liberals, immigrants, atheists, etc. — Ted Turner, say, married to Jane Fonda.

But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

Matt Taibi: The peasant mentality lives on in America

(via Chris Arkenberg)

Remember: Any government attempts to curb the powers of the wealthy is socialism/communism/fascism and will ultimately lead to the mass enslavement of the American people. The ONLY solution to ALL our problems is reduced regulation of big business.

Who’s Afraid of Friedrich Hayek?

A favorite essay.

TODAY, THESE observations are merely obvious. Yet it is worth pointing out that Hayek understood at least one very big thing: that the vision of a perfectible society leads inevitably to the gulag. Experience should have taught us by now that human societies are jerry-built structures, rickety towers of ad hoc solutions to unforeseen problems. Their development is evolutionary, and as in biological evolution, they do not have natural end-states. They are what they are continuously becoming. Comprehensive models of how society should work reject the wisdom of solutions that work and deny the legitimacy (indeed, from Lenin to Mussolini to Mao to Ho to Castro to Qutb, deny the very right to exist) of individuals who demonstrate anti-orthodox wisdom. Defenders of these models are required by their own rigidity to invent the category of the counterrevolutionary.

To Hayek, this is what socialism, communism, and collectivism—he makes little distinction between them—mean: the dangerous illusion of perfectibility. The only kind of socialism he considers in Road is state-managed, perfect-society utopianism, in which the direction of the economy and all of its inputs and outputs are planned, with the accompanying political and moral degradation that Hayek demonstrates quite convincingly. In many ways, the warnings in Road prefigure those in 1984 and have the same intimate feel for the totalitarian state. This focus on state-led socialism should not be particularly surprising in 1944, and perhaps Hayek (like Arthur Koestler, in a different but not unrelated way) deserves some credit for warning European idealists about the true meaning of the major romantic movement of the postwar period. But other visions of socialism, and other socialistic traditions, were certainly available to Hayek when he wrote. The absence of any consideration of more libertarian, less top-down approaches (the socialisms of Luxembourg, Kropotkin, Proudhon, many others; or of the possibility of nontotalitarian models of social democracy, like those that emerged in Europe after the war) should alert the reader to Hayek’s limitations. Admittedly, Kropotkin’s ideas had little impact on the world of 1944, Stalin’s a great deal.

The omission of these other viewpoints is important nowadays, because Hayek’s ideological descendants often assume, either sincerely or disingenuously, that in a world very different from that of 1944, socialism by definition still means state control of the economy in the interest of perfecting social relations. To Hayek, as to such diverse right-wingers as Ayn Rand, Margaret Thatcher, William F. Buckley, Thomas Sowell, or Phil Gramm, collectivism is defined as something imposed and policed by the state. It is the Borg Hive, the submersion of individual will and agency to the greater good.

For thoughtful democratic socialists, this line of attack is surely an amusing or infuriating distraction. Yes, when they feel like it, right-wingers can dig up someone like “Maoist economist” Raymond Lotta of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who will argue that a completely planned economy is more efficient and more just than the market. Former leftist turned left-basher David Horowitz, for example, loves to do this kind of thing, in the same way that Dinesh D’Souza, with equal intellectual seriousness, recently blamed the attacks of September 11, 2001, on cultural liberalism. But how relevant is the RCP to the ongoing American political debate? Does it represent any school of democratic socialism? The RCP quite explicitly despises liberal democracy.

Dissent Magazine: Who’s Afraid of Friedrich Hayek? The Obvious Truths and Mystical Fallacies of a Hero of the Right

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