Saturday, March 04, 2006

Speaking of the First Amendment...(RANT ALERT)

Earlier this week, RIA bemoaned poll results which show vastly more knowledge of the Simpsons and American Idol than of the rights guaranteed in the first ammendment. Just as a as a reminder:
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.
Thankfully, this week as given us something of a refresher course of our First Ammendment freedoms in action. (Yes, I know, I'm taking a few liberties here. Deal.)

First: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of relgion, or prohibting the free exercise thereof . . . " Fourteenth Ammendment aside, Missouri sees this as salutory rather than law:
Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

. . .

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."
Moving along, no ". . . abridging the freedom of speech. . ." Unless you say the one word you just can't say to Bill O'Reilly:
he threatened a caller of his radio show with "a little visit" from "Fox security" for mentioning MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's name on the air

. . .

O'Reilly added that the caller was "going to get into big trouble, because we're not going to play around." Warning his listeners, O'Reilly continued, "When you call us, ladies and gentleman, just so you know, we do have your phone number, and if you say anything untoward, obscene, or anything like that, Fox security will then contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable."

And allegedly, some one from Fox Security did in fact make contact:
"I got the call on the phone I used to call him from the head of Fox News security. He said that harassing phone calls were coming from my phone. I asked him how many? He did not know. I asked him what was said that was harassing? He said that he did not know but that it did not have to be what was said, but how many calls were being made. He tried to make like I made 20 phone calls instead of one, and that I cursed O'Reilly out. All I said was that I was grateful to O'Reilly for turning me on to Olberman. Then he hung up."
Good times.

". . . Or of the press. . ." Except for when the press prints inconvenient stories. Such as possible presidential law breaking:
The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.

. . .

"Almost every administration has kind of come in saying they want an open administration, and then getting bad press and fuming about leaks," said David Greenberg, a Rutgers University journalism professor and author of "Nixon's Shadow." "But it's a pretty fair statement to say you haven't seen this kind of crackdown on leaks since the Nixon administration."
Because it's the leaking, stupid, which is bad, not the torturinghurricane responsewiretapping that the leak concerns.

". . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble . . .". Unless they are snarkily assembling peaceably in a disaster zone:
George Barisich, president of the United Commercial Fisherman's Association, has been selling anti-FEMA T-shirts since last fall, a reflection of his frustration with the federal government's response to the storm that left him homeless and unemployed.

But on Feb. 1, when he handed a shirt to a fellow Katrina victim as he was picking up canned goods at a charity's relief tent, Barisich found himself in trouble with the government.

He was cited by a group of Homeland Security officials for selling a T-shirt on federal property - in this case, near a FEMA center in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Chalmette, La.

But if all else fails, you can still "petition the government for a redress of grievances." Unless, well, the government says you can't:
In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."


"Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."

Thomas Wilner, a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantanamo, agreed that the law cannot be enforced. "This is what Guantanamo was about to begin with, a place to keep detainees out of the U.S. precisely so they can say they can't go to court," Wilner said.
Move along, nothing to see here, if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.

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