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Palin’s Simplistic Reaction to Snyder v. Phelps

3:59 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Leave it to Sarah Palin to distill one of the most interestingly plain cases in recent U.S. Supreme Court history down to a a simplistic tweet:

Common sense & decency absent as wacko “church” allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square

Leave it to Palin to confuse the 1st Amendment itself with the Establishment Clause. She’s done it before, though.  And her history of understanding any part of the 1st Amendment is self-serving, at best. As Justin Elliot observes at

Palin’s counter-argument here is that “common sense” requires that offensive protests be banned.

The former Alaska governor has a history of invoking the principle of “free speech” at odd times. Here she is in October 2008 during a radio interview:

If they convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.

In response, Glenn Greenwald noted at the time: “The First Amendment is actually not that complicated. It can be read from start to finish in about 10 seconds. It bars the Government from abridging free speech rights. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re free to say things without being criticized, or whether you can comment on blogs without being edited, or whether people can bar you from their private planes because they don’t like what you’ve said.”

Palin made a similar remark last year when defending Dr. Laura, who retired after she faced intense criticism for using the N-word on her radio show. Palin tweeted then:

Dr.Laura:don’t retreat…reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence”isn’t American,not fair”)

And then:

Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!

Again, Palin seemed to be equating what was (in her opinion) unfair criticism as somehow an infringement on First Amendment rights. The government, of course, had no role in forcing Dr. Laura to retire following her controversial remarks.

Interestingly, the sole dissenter in this morning’s decision, Justice Samuel Alito echoes part of what irks Palin, in his written remarks:

Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a licence for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.

In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalisation of innocent victims like the petitioner.

Westboro Baptist Church sucks. Bigtime. So do skinhead anti-Semitic marches and KKK rallies. But all these objectionable acts are protected under the 1st Amendment.

Elliot concludes his article on Palin’s reaction with:

Under Palin’s interpretation of the First Amendment, criticism of public figures threatens free speech, but peaceful protests she doesn’t like should be banned.

Compare Palin’s self-serving whine to early 20th century British freethinker, Evelyn Beatrice Hall:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Make War on Amazon This Christmas – Boycott Rape Gurney Joe’s BFF – Updated: Glennzilla Joins Quest

3:55 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

So far, has refused to answer questions about why they succumbed to pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman, and stopped hosting Wikileaks late yesterday.  Talking Points Memo’s Rachel Slajda writes:

Amazon has not responded to requests for comment. Its terms of acceptable use include a ban on illegal activities (it’s not yet clear whether Wikileaks has broken any laws) and content “that may be harmful to our users, operations, or reputation.” It also prohibits using Amazon’s servers “to violate the security or integrity of any network, computer or communications system,” although Wikileaks obviously obtained the cables long before hopping on Amazon’s servers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocates for Internet freedom of speech by defending court cases, said the axing certainly doesn’t violate the First Amendment. But it is, according to senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston, “disappointing.”

“This certainly implicates First Amendment rights to the extent that web hosts may, based on direct or informal pressure, limit the materials the American public has a First Amendment right to access,” Bankston told TPM.

TPM isn’t the only news source seeking clarification from  But more effort might go at this point into wondering why isn’t rushing to also terminate services to other web sites which probably have similar terms of use agreements as Wikileaks, such as the Washington Post and the Guardian (the entire list might fill pages) and that are also republishing material they got from Wikileaks.

Until explains fully why they’ve taken this action, you might think of doing your online business for the holidays elsewhere.

Pass the word.

Update – Thursday Morning:

Glenn Greenwald is interested in what is being done in the boycott arena:

If anyone is aware of some sort of campaign to boycott Amazon’s web services over its capitulation to Joe Lieberman — and there should be one — please alert me to it so I can promote it. Of course, everyone is able on their own to cease using those services even without some formally organized campaign.

I posted a comment at his article on this article. Hopefully, somebody in his shop will read it and pass the word.

Joe Miller Invokes East Germany as Security Model, Then Has Blog Editor Arrested by Thugs

11:10 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

At a town hall meeting Sunday afternoon(1) in Anchorage, U.S. Senate campaign GOP nominee Joe Miller was asked a long question on how we should keep illegal immigrants out.

His short answer: "If East Germany can do it, we can do it!"

After the meeting, Miller was approached by Tony Hopfinger, an award-winning journalist and editor of the on-line news source, The Alaska Dispatch. Here’s what happened next:

Hopfinger, who had learned at the last minute of Miller’s planned appearance at the public school, ducked into a hallway after the meeting to pose his own questions to Miller.

Hopfinger had been trying to ask Miller questions when two or three guards told him to leave or risk being charged with trespassing.

When Hopfinger continued to try to ask questions, one of the guards put the reporter in an arm-bar and then handcuffed him.

Hopfinger was released after police arrived.

The reporter was on public property where a public event was being held at the time of the incident.

Here’s KTUU TV’s early print coverage:

According to Hopfinger, Miller’s security team pushed him and he pushed back because he felt his personal space was being invaded. He says guards detained him and accused him of trespassing, although the town hall was a public event held at a public building.

Miller security guard William Fulton said in a statement Sunday that he was responding to Hopfinger’s actions.

“The Dispatch reporter repeatedly pushed a camera into the face of Mr. Miller,” Fulton said. “He continued to aggressively pursue him. I told the reporter several times that he needed to stop and that he was trespassing, he ignored me. He then proceeded to stalk Mr. Miller and even shoved an individual into a locker. Based upon this trespass and his assault, we detained him and escorted him from the premises.”

Hopfinger says he waited for about half an hour in handcuffs for police to show up. No arrests have been made and no charges have been filed.

Last Monday, under increasing pressure from the Alaska press to release more details of why his employment as an attorney for the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) ended in controversy, Miller scheduled, canceled, then rescheduled a press conference(2). At that event, Miller closed, stating:

We’ve drawn a line in the sand. You can ask me about background, you can ask about personal issues — I’m not going to answer. I’m not.

During this past week, press hostility toward Miller understandably grew. As a result of Miller’s refusal to sign a release allowing the FNSB to release his employment records, the former mayor of Fairbanks, Republican Jim Whitaker made a public statement(3) on Miller’s job performance there:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller was nearly fired from his job as a borough attorney in 2008 after using borough computers in an attempt to oust the chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska, former borough Mayor Jim Whitaker said Wednesday.

Whitaker said Miller’s actions violated the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s ethics policy but did not result in a termination because the borough needed Miller to continue working on its lawsuit about how much to tax the trans-Alaska pipeline system.

Miller eventually resigned from borough employment on Sept. 1, 2009. “I’m speaking now because this occurred on my watch as mayor, because I know the truth, and because I have an obligation to tell the truth,” Whitaker said in an interview with the Daily News-Miner.

He said that, as a former mayor, he would prefer not to be involved in “the political melee.” “I also felt it was appropriate to give Mr. Miller enough time to come forward himself,” Whitaker said. “It’s clear with his statements of the other day, he’s not going to do that.

That was Wednesday. Alaska legal blogger, Wickersham’s Conscience made a case that Whitaker’s information indicates Miller engaged in criminal activity in his abuse of co-workers’ computers:

So Miller was allegedly was using other folks’ computers, without their permission or knowledge, so he could pretend to be sending votes by someone else in the contest for Republican Party State Chair. He is alleged to have been stuffing the electronic ballot box, using Borough computers. Alaska’s criminal laws have something to say about this.

WC goes on to list the felony statutes Miller appeared to have violated. The Miller campaign was quick to deny that Miller had done anything wrong. On Late Thursday, Miller’s dad, Rex, sent out an email that leaked out through the Tea Party Express grapevine by Friday. In it, Rex Miller asserted that what his son told him he had done with the computers was different from what former mayor Whitaker had described:

One noon hour, on his own time at the borough, Joe participated in an online poll voting against Randy,” Rostad wrote in the e-mail, recounting the Thursday morning conversation he said he had with Rex Miller. “He used four office computers in the office to do it, thinking this was his chance to boost numbers to get rid of Randy. He emptied the cache files on the computers so the users wouldn’t know what he had done.

Here’s WC‘s response to Rex:

WC is glad that Miller committed his felonies on his lunch hour and not on the Borough clock. However, it’s irrelevant to the real issue. Note that Joe Miller wiped the computers’ cache files afterwards. That’s the one of the places where a computer user leaves “digital fingerprints” of what he or she has done. (Not the only one, Joe.) And that’s very good evidence that Miller knew what he was doing was wrong. He was attempting to conceal the fact a crime had taken place. He was trying to wipe the fingerprints off of the crime scene. That’s certainly evidence he knew he’d done something criminal. Oh,and that’s a separate crime, by the way. Tampering with Evidence, AS 11.56.610, and possibly Tampering with a Public Record, AS 11.56.820.

Polls are being taken over the weekend. I was polled yesterday, and two friends relate that they were polled yesterday and today by firms that asked different questions from those I was asked. The late week Rasmussen Poll, showing Miller at 35%, Lisa Murkowski at 34% and Democrat Scott McAdams at 27% (plus or minus 4.5%) shows a very close race, with McAdams making his biggest jump since the race has been polled.

This race will continue to tighten. Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Ethan Berkowitz, in a statement issued as I’m writing, has asked Gov. Sean Parnell to look more closely at Miller:

Ethan Berkowitz had a strong reaction upon hearing the news that Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger was detained and handcuffed by a private security force hired by Senate candidate Joe Miller.

Berkowitz said, "In this country, journalists have a job to do, which includes exercising their rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment. A free press means that journalists must work without fear of muscle or muzzle.

"The fact that this was a private security guard hired by a U.S. Senate candidate in the heat of a political campaign makes this story even more outrageous. The actions of Mr. Miller’s agents against Mr. Hopfinger must be investigated and prosecuted by the State for violation of criminal statutes."

Berkowitz continued, "Even though Sean Parnell continues to stand behind Joe Miller, I call on him to follow my lead and condemn the Miller campaign for its chilling attack on a free press. That behavior has no place in Alaska, or in any free, representative democracy."

Berkowitz has been pounding Parnell on many issues and that race is tightening up quickly too. Late Friday, Republican Republican Bill Walker, who lost to Parnell in the GOP primary endorsed Berkowitz. Walker has many fierce advocates from the center and from the faction of the GOP that never liked Sarah Palin. Sean Parnell is derisively called "SP version two point zero" by many Republicans, mimicking GOP Rep. Don Young’s categorization of Parnell, for his blandness, as "Captain Zero." In the primary, here’s the way the votes broke down:

Sean Parnell (R) ————– 54,125
Bill Walker (R) ————— 35,734
Ethan Berkowitz (D) ——— 22,607
Hollis French (D) ————- 18,018

Both Walker and French have endorsed Berkowitz, and only polling conducted this coming week will reflect whether Walker’s embrace of Berkowitz will help significantly.

Update: The first video has emerged. It doesn’t show much, but Miller’s assertion that Hopfinger was violent doesn’t appear to hold any water:


(1) See also "Miller town hall in Anchorage Sunday,"

(2) See also "Miller Refuses to Answer Any More Personal Questions,"

(3) See also "Former mayor: Miller ‘not truthful’ about borough employment,"

Thoughts on Abe Foxman’s Speechlessness over Fareed Zakaria’s Return of the ADL’s Humphrey Award

1:28 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The dispute between Fareed Zakaria and Abe Foxman is not over. Foxman’s faux "shock" over Zakariah’s reaction to Foxman’s efforts to stop the building of an Islamic community center a few blocks from "ground zero" may be masking efforts by Foxman to have Zakaria exit by the same route as Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr.

In response to Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman’s statements last week, in which the latter both sought to exacerbate negative feelings 9/11 survivors irrationally hold toward Islam, and to further define Foxman’s take on Zionist exceptionalism, author and journalist Fareed Zakaria returned the Hubert H. Humphrey Award certificate and honorarium he had received five years ago from the ADL.

On August 2nd, Foxman wrote a column in which he sided with Sarah Palin and the larger neo-con community, urging the backers of the lower Manhattan community center plan to re-think their project, possibly moving it to another part of the island:

At its essence, our position is about sensitivity. Everyone — victims, opponents and proponents alike — must pay attention to the sensitivities involved without giving in to appeals to, or accusations of, bigotry. Ultimately, this was not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center would unnecessarily cause some victims more pain. And that wasn’t right.

Earlier, on July 30th, Foxman was quoted as saying:

Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational. Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.

Zakaria reacted to the perception of inconsistency in the ADL position on the mosque with what he thought the ADL had long stood for, in a personal way. Here’s his complete letter:

Dear Mr. Foxman,

Five years ago, the ADL honored me with its Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. I was delighted and moved to have been chosen for it in good measure because of the high esteem in which I hold the ADL. I have always been impressed by the fact that your mission is broad – “to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens” – and you have interpreted it broadly over the decades. You have fought discrimination against all religions, races, and creeds and have built a well-deserved reputation.

That is why I was stunned at your decision to publicly side with those urging the relocation of the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan. You are choosing to use your immense prestige to take a side that is utterly opposed to the animating purpose of your organization. Your own statements subsequently, asserting that we must honor the feelings of victims even if irrational or bigoted, made matters worse.

This is not the place to debate the press release or your statements. Many have done this and I have written about it in Newsweek and on my television show – both of which will be out over the weekend. The purpose of this letter is more straightforward. I cannot in good conscience hold onto the award or the honorarium that came with it and am returning both. I hope that it might add to the many voices that have urged you to reconsider and reverse your position on this issue. This decision will haunt the ADL for years if not decades to come. Whether or not the center is built, what is at stake here is the integrity of the ADL and its fidelity to its mission. Admitting an error is a small price to pay to regain your reputation.

Foxman’s reply is also worth a complete reprint:

Dear Fareed:

I received your letter today and must say I am not only saddened but stunned and somewhat speechless by your decision to return the ADL Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize, you accepted in 2005. As someone I greatly respect for engaging in discussion and dialogue with an open mind I would have expected you to reach out to me before coming to judgment.

ADL is the same agency you held in esteem then; we have never wavered from our mission since its inception in 1913. I know you know well the work we do to fight prejudice and discrimination and promote respect and understanding among all people.

I hope you have read our statement on the proposed Islamic Center at Ground Zero and, more importantly, understand our position. We did not oppose the right for an Islamic Center or a mosque to be built. What we did was to make an appeal based solely on the issues of location and sensitivity. If the stated goal was to advance reconciliation and understanding, we believe taking into consideration the feelings of many victims and their families, of first responders and many New Yorkers, who are not bigots but still feel the pain of 9/11, would go a long way to achieving that reconciliation.

ADL has and will continue to stand up for Muslims and others where they are targets of racism and bigotry, as we have done at the request of and on behalf of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf.

I am holding on to your award and check in hope that you will come to see that ADL acted appropriately and you will want to reclaim them.

It is obvious that Foxman doesn’t get why Zakariah feels so strongly about this. Nor does Foxman understand how deeply his statements must offend supporters of the First Amendment.

As some readers here may know, I firmly back the strong belief of all the survivors of the assault on the U.S.S. Liberty by Israeli jets and torpedo boats, that the attack on their ship was as deliberate as was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Did Foxman realize when he sided with Sarah Palin, that there has long been a mosque inside of the Pentagon? Or that, by applying his standard, one might suggest, in view of what Foxman terms "location and sensitivity," that the Jewish Chapel, located within a block or so of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, be moved further away, so as not to offend the relatives of:

LCDR Philip McCutcheon Armstrong, Jr. Navy Cross
LT James Cecil Pierce
LT Stephen Spencer Toth, Silver Star
CT3 William Bernard Allenbaugh
SN Gary Ray Blanchard
CT2 Allen Merle Blue
QM3 Francis Brown
CT2 Ronnie Jordan Campbell
CT2 Jerry Leroy Converse
CT2 Robert Burton Eisenberg
CT2 Jerry Lee Gross
CT1 Curtis Alan Graves
CTSN Lawrence Pasul Hayden
CT1 Warren Edward Hersey
CT3 Alan (NMN) Higgins
SN Carl Lewis Hoar
CT2 Richard Walter Keene, Jr.
CTSN James Lee Lenau
CTC Raymond Eugene Linn
CT1 James Mahlon Lupton
CT3 Duane Rowe Marggraf
CTSN David Walter Marlborough
CT2 Anthony Peter Mendle
CTSN Carl Christian Nygren
SGT Jack Lewis Raper, USMC
CPL Edward Emory Rehmeyer, III, USMC
IFCN David (NMN) Skolak
CT1 John Caleb Smith, Jr.
CTC Melvin Douglas Smith
PC2 John Clarence Spicher
GMG3 Alexander Neil Thompson, Jr.
CT3 Thomas Ray Thornton
CT3 Philippe Charles Tiedke
CT1 Frederick James Walton

It would be as foolish to start a movement to move the Jewish community center in Annapolis as it is to attempt to thwart construction of the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. Neither the 9/11 attackers nor the planners of the attack on our men at sea in June 1967 represent the ideals of their faiths or the hopes of their communities.

I’m going to donate $10.00 to each project. Here are their donation pages:

Friends of the Jewish Chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy

Cordoba House

Here’s Zakaria’s explanation of his return of the award:

Help Jewish Voice for Peace Get Max Blumenthal’s Video Back Up on YouTube

10:46 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana created a riveting video in Jerusalem, on the eve of President Obama’s Cairo University address. It showed hatred toward our president by young Israelis and Americans. It was seen over 500,000 times. Now it has been removed from YouTube

Max produced a number of videos while in Israel and the Occupied West Bank, in May and early June. They document several aspects of the occupation, current Israeli internal politics, and give glimpses of the ongoing Jewish identity crisis there, particularly among young people. Max has interviewed people on farms, in the military, in politics, and on the street. He ended one video report from within the posh Milken-Dobson exercise club, in a Jewish settlement on stolen Palestinian land.

I’ve been following Max’s career closely, since he spent a week or so with us in Wasilla last September, as he investigated Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s ties to extremist groups. He’s maturing rapidly as a journalist, and articles from his trip to Israel and the West Bank, covered by Max’s own blog, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post and Mondoweiss, are quite riveting.
Read the rest of this entry →

The Anti-Semitism Tag Isn’t the Only Weapon Used Against Defenders of Palestinian Rights

3:24 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

On Sunday, I posted a DailyKos diary, called IDF Gaza Offensive Thoughts – I Was Denounced as an Anti-Semite. I put it up to see if others who had undergone or were undergoing the same experience had anything to add.

Guess what? I was instantly denounced as a "raving anti-Semite."

Not many people who had undergone similar experiences to mine came forward, but many commenters accused me of anti-Semitism or of being somebody with a persecution complex. Or both.

There was no lack of supporters for my premise, though, that when one steps up to strongly defend the Palestinian people, fervent supporters of Israel often use the "a-S" tag without much thought, and with flimsy evidence, if any.

My route to such ill fame was through writing classical music about Rachel Corrie and the plight of Palestinians. Not many classical musicians write about this issue. A few have, but for every piece of classically-based music about this that might exist, there are plenty, perhaps over a thousand, about the World War II Holocaust against Europe’s Jewish population. And for every play such as "My Name is Rachel Corrie" there are dozens that play to the "equivalency" Read the rest of this entry →