Friday, September 29, 2006

We have minions?! Why didn't I get one?

Since someone asked about it, I'll share with you all the horrible bill called Public Expression of Religion Act(PERA) (S. 3696 / H.R. 2679). It's being advanced by the American Legion (who has been kind of obsessed with hating us over the past few years) and a group of far-right religious groups. Sadly, it passed the house earlier this week with a vote of 244-173. Thankfully it's not likely to reach the Senate floor before they recess for the election.

This legislation would bar damages and awards of attorney's fees to winning parties in Establishment Clause cases. It would, for the first time ever, single out one area protected by the First Amendment and prevent its full enforcement. This prohibition would apply to all Establishment Clause cases, including those involving illegal religious coercion of public school students or blatant discrimination against particular religions.

This means that even when we win in court, we would still have to pay for our costs. Without the threat of having to pay attorneys fees or damages, there is no reason for school districts or other government entities not to push the envelope and enact blatantly unconstitutional policies. Why wouldn't another school board with a similar mind set as that of the old Dover board try to require the teaching of intelligent design? The worst that could happen would be they'd have to stop. The ACLU and other groups like us would have to greatly reduce the number of cases we can take, if we don't receive attorneys fees for the cases we win. (Just for the record, the Dover case cost over $1 million to try.)

But the people this would most hurt would be our clients, often times people who have had to risk the censure of their community to stand up for their rights. (By the way, the American Legion has referred to our clients as "mascot plaintiffs." Tell that to Tammy Kitzmiller and company.)

The other side has repeatedly tried to frame this as the "anti-ACLU bill" or the "defund the ACLU bill." Here's what the bill's sponsor, Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) had to say:

"Because of PERA, Americans will have the opportunity to fight the systematic agenda of the ACLU and their minions to remove the vestiges of our religious heritage in this nation," Hostettler said in a written release after House passage. "Patriots will have their day in court."

Wow. Even more incredible is the disingenuous description of PERA Hostettler has on his website:

H.R. 2679, The Public Expression of Religion Act (PERA) is a bill inrtoduced [sic] by Congressman Hostettler that allows "establishment clause" cases to have the opportunity to be heard before a court of law.


PERA allows Americans to defend the symbols and expressions of our nation's rich religious heritage in the sunlight of a courtroom before a judge rather than being settled outside the boundaries of America's legal system

Last time I checked, these cases already had the chance to be tried in a court of law.

I have to end this post before my blood pressure shoots any higher.

Sara in Philly

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tyranny comes to our shores

That is not said lightly.

I'm struggling a bit to put together words about what the Senate did today on the detainee treatment and military commission bill. In one fell swoop, the Senate- preceded by the House, including my rep, Rep. Tim Holden (D-Schuylkil)- condoned torture and destroyed the ability to challenge one's detention in court. This is unfathomable, not only for the principle of the thing but also because military reports have indicated that a majority of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are innocent.

I'll let Glenn Greenwald get a word in here:
There really is no other way to put it. Issues of torture to the side (a grotesque qualification, I know), we are legalizing tyranny in the United States. Period. Primary responsibility for this fact lies with the authoritarian Bush administration and its sickeningly submissive loyalists in Congress. That is true enough. But there is no point in trying to obscure the fact that it's happening with the cowardly collusion of the Senate Democratic leadership, which quite likely could have stopped this travesty via filibuster if it chose to (it certainly could have tried).

Greenwald blogged throughout the Senate debate and provides an intriguing read.

It is true that freedom-loving people face enemies today, but not all of those enemies have names like Osama and Mahmoud and Khalid. Some have names like George and Rick and Ken and Joseph and.... (Fill in the name of your choice after looking at the roll call vote.)

Andy in Harrisburg

Happy Banned Books Week!

Every year around this time in September, the ACLU joins a variety of groups, including the subversive American Library Association, in celebrating the freedom to read without censorship. The "banned" in 'Banned Books Week' refers to the hundreds of books that have been challenged and/or withdrawn from schools, public libraries, and bookstores.

Yes, this still happens in 21st century America. In fact, according to the ALA, the top ten most challenged books of 2005 were:

1. It's Perfectly Normal, by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley
2. Forever, by Judy Blume
3. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
4. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
5. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
6. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
7. What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
8. Captain Underpants series, by Dav Pilkey
9. Crazy Lady!, by Jane Leslie Conly
10. It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families, by Robie H. Harris

The ACLU of PA held Banned Books Readings in Philly and Pittsburgh this year. The Pittsburgh events featured four short video clips of Pittsburgh locals reading lines from their favorite banned or challenged book. It's a cute montage and worth checking out. Happy Banned Books Week!

-Lisa in Pittsburgh

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Happy Birthday to us! (Now, where's the cake?)

Yep, it was one year ago yesterday that Speaking Freely officially launched to coincide with the start of the Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover trial challenging the Dover Area School Board's decision to insert a statement about intelligent design into its 9th grade biology curriculum. Some highlights from the year that was:

Unfortunately, there were some lowlights.

There are probably highlights and lowlights I'm forgetting, so feel free to post your own. It is an honor and a privilege that you read this blog, and we appreciate the opportunity to bring forward this important information about freedom in America. I look at SF as a laboratory for working through our public message, and it provides me with an opportunity to really think through what we're saying and how we're saying it. Thanks.

Now go grab some cake. Jessica and Lisa are on the turn-table.

Andy in Harrisburg

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Two plus two equals five, war is peace, and....

...undocumented immigrants are trying to vote.

Not to rehash what has already been stated here, but let's rehash what has already been stated here. Cynthia Tucker has a brilliant column from Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which appeared in today's (Harrisburg) Patriot News, about the voter ID bill from last week:
Republican leaders have discovered a grave threat to American democracy that most of us apparently had not noticed: Everywhere, in big states and small, red enclaves and blue, bustling metropolises and rural hamlets, impostors are flocking to the polls to vote under false pretenses. Apparently, the nation has been overrun by fake voters.

What else would explain the GOP's insistence on using its power to ram through requirements that voters show government-issued photo IDs at the ballot box?

And Tucker tapped an election academic to back up her point. (Note: Said expert is not a member of Congress.)
"If you are an illegal immigrant, the last thing you want to do is show up at a polling place, ..." said Thomas Patterson, an expert on elections at Harvard's Shorenstein Center. "We have enough trouble getting people to vote when they're eligible. The idea that people are going to stick their necks out and get [a] penalty stretches the imagination."

The citizenry needs to know what powerful politicians are trying to do with their vote. And then vote with a vengeance.

Andy in the HBG


When I was in school, a D+ would have sent me home crying to mommy. So who is the U.S. crying to in response to the Council on Global Terrorism's recent report card, covering subjects ranging from "Combating Islamic Extremist Terrorism" to "Balancing Security and Core Values"? No better than a D+ in either of these subjects, by the way.

Five years after 9/11, the NY Times reports on a classified National Intelligence Estimate - a combined appraisal by 16 internal spy agencies - that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has contributed to the spread of Islamic extremism and that "the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."

So having my Tom's of Maine toothpaste summarily tossed into the trash over Labor Day by a hard-working airport security guard makes me feel like I'm back in school - watching one of those students who's scribbling furiously, but it all comes out looking like nonsense. If our country's not making the grade, then it's up to us to look beyond efficiently packing our carry-ons and hold our government accountable.

It's also up to our press and media outlets to do the same. Over 350 people rallied in Philly with the ACLU to defend the Constitution on Sept. 17, calling for government accountability and Congressional oversight to ensure that our civil liberties are being protected in a time of heightened security. And where was the press for this event? Playing hooky.

Jess in Philly

Friday, September 22, 2006

Maine Couple is Criminal and Racist?

You probably join me in my shock that Nicholas and Lola Kampf would see kidnapping their daughter and forcing her to have an abortion as an appropriate response to her telling them she’s pregnant. In addition, their rationale (or lack thereof) is reportedly fueled by racism. According to ABC News:

A Maine couple accused of tying up their 19-year-old daughter, throwing her in their car and driving her out of state to get an abortion were upset because the baby’s father is black, a Maine sheriff said Tuesday.

"This whole race-card things is ridiculous and objectionable," said [Defense attorney Mark] Sisti, who represented both of the Kampfs for their arraignment Monday, but is now representing only Lola Kampf.

Katelyn Kampf escaped from her parents in Salem after persuading them to untie her so she could use a Kmart bathroom, police said.

If convicted, the Kampfs could face up to 15 years in prison.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I think everyone on both sides of the issue would agree that no woman should ever be forced to have an abortion. Sadly for Katelyn Kampf, her parents were the ones who tried to take away her right to decide if and when she was to become pregnant (and with whom).

Julie in Philly

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You missed us, didn't you?

Sorry we've been slacking on the blog this week. It's probably the post-rally exhale. 350 showed up on Constitution Day to defend the document that gives our freedom life. Photos are available here and here. You can also pick up a post-rally interview with attorney Michael Coard, host of The Radio Courtroom on WHAT, by clicking here.


Rob the vote

Here we go again.

In February, state Republicans offered a solution for a problem that doesn't exist by requiring photo identification at the voting booth, claiming it was necessary to stop voter fraud, which isn't happening. Governor Rendell did the right thing by promptly squashing that noxious legislation.

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed legislation to require proof of citizenship at the polls. Now, think about that. Before you get to the polls, you have to register. And in order to register, what do you need? Say it together- citizenship.

Because this bill requires proof of citizenship, not just identification, a driver's license would not do the trick since documented immigrants and, in some states, undocumented immigrants can get driver's licenses. So you'll need to take your passport, which only 27% of Americans have (and I'm in the 73% who do not have a passport), or your birth certificate to vote.

Not surprisingly, this legislation, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, would have the greatest impact on the elderly, the poor, and minorities, much like the state legislation earlier this year. Even less surprising, the bill passed on a party line vote with the Rs in favor and the Ds against.

Oh, and while we're ticking off all of the predictables in this, supporters managed to tie in illegal immigration to their cause.
"Those who are in this country illegally want the same rights as United States citizens without obeying the laws of our land," Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Florida Republican, said during the House debate. "We should not let these criminals defraud our election system by allowing them to vote."

Come on, Congresswoman. That's the best you can do? Couldn't you find a way to tie in terrorists from France who are in same-sex relationships? The list of scapegoats is much too long to just stop at illegal immigrants.

Reuters reporter Donna Smith failed miserably in not questioning Rep. Brown-Waite on where she has the evidence that undocumented immigrants- or documented immigrants, for that matter- are trying to fraudulently vote.
America has a proud tradition of opening up the franchise to new groups, notably women and blacks, who were once denied it. It is disgraceful that, for partisan political reasons, some people are trying to reverse the tide, and standing in the way of people who have every right to vote.

NY Times editorial (subscription required): Keep away the vote

Thankfully, this has little chance of passing the Senate.

Andy in H-burg

Friday, September 15, 2006

We're Going Commercial...

A while back I posted about the Port Authority's refusal to run our educational bus ads in Pittsburgh, over which we are now in the middle of a lawsuit.

Well, the ACLU and the League of Young Voters decided to turn the 'objectionable' ad into a billboard campaign. We wanted to get the information out prior to the November elections, and it was looking like it the legal issues would not be resolved before then.

We'd much rather have given our money to the Port Authority than waste taxpayers' money on a lawsuit, but what can you do?

Lisa in Pittsburgh

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shout it from the rooftops: Kangaroo court coming to the U.S.?

In a recent Supreme Court dissent, Justice Scalia (who will be speaking at the ACLU's national membership conference next month in D.C.) said that if the U.S. had executed an innocent person, we would all know about it because it would be shouted "from the rooftops." (In fact, in the last year-plus, four cases of potentially wrongful executions have been exposed by major American newspapers.)

There are so many things to shout from the rooftops these days that one almost has to create permanent residence on the roof. Here's yet another: The Bush Administration's plan for military tribunals for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

There seems to be a running theme this week: Who are we? Bob Herbert asks that question in today's New York Times (subscription required):
We had elections in New York and around the country on Tuesday. But it seems to me that the biggest issue of our time is getting very short shrift from the politicians, and that's the fact that the very character of the United States is changing, and not for the better.

Herbert goes on to discuss numerous issues, including some of importance for the ACLU and all freedom-loving people:
The president put us on this path away from the better angels of our nature, and he has shown no inclination to turn back. Lately he has touted legislation to try terror suspects in a way that would make a mockery of the American ideals of justice and fairness. To get a sense of just how far out the administration's approach has been, consider the comments of Brig. Gen. James Walker, the top uniformed lawyer for the Marines. Speaking at a Congressional hearing last week, he said no civilized country denies defendants the right to see the evidence against them. The United States, he said, "should not be the first."

And Senator Lindsey Graham, a conservative South Carolina Republican who is a former military judge, said, "It would be unacceptable, legally, in my opinion, to give someone the death penalty in a trial where they never heard the evidence against them."

How weird is it that this possibility could even be considered?

The character of the U.S. has changed. We're in danger of being completely ruled by fear. Most Americans have not shared the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Very few Americans are aware, as the Center for Constitutional Rights tells us, that of the hundreds of men held by the U.S. in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, many "have never been charged and will never be charged because there is no evidence justifying their detention."

Even fewer care.

We could benefit from looking in a mirror, and absorbing the shock of not recognizing what we've become.

ACLU: Bush guts Geneva Conventions enforcement and undermines due process

Andy in the HBG

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Feeling uncomfortably full?

There's a heaviness in the air today, and it's not just the dulling influence of a cloudy autumn morning. It's the cumulative effect of an overstuffed summer picnic basket of administrative abuses of power that have included the chilling of peaceful dissent, government eavesdropping without a warrant, the continuing denial of due process for detainees at Guantanamo, and the acknowledged existence of secret prisons. Who wouldn't have a belly ache?

I, for one, am tired of having my stomach in knots. I want to see the faces of the other people out there who are also finding our administration's ounce of prevention to be more like a pound. And where is the cure?

Congress is not stepping up to provide a counter to the White House's power grab, let alone challenge its definition of the problems facing our country. Even today, the Washington Post reports that the House GOP leadership is working on limiting proposed controls to warrantless wiretapping.

So an appeal is in order to all of you out there in Pennsylvania and the surrounding region who are feeling bloated and uncomfortable, heavy and chilled as our backyard BBQs are winding down and we have to turn inward and face what the summer has delivered:

This Sunday is Constitution Day. It's a federal holiday recognizing the signing of the Constitution right here in Philadelphia. And on this Sunday, here on Independence Mall, we're going to be unveiling an 8-foot Constitution; we're going to have John Dean speaking - former White House counsel during the Nixon administration - along with Ann Beeson, the ACLU attorney who successfully argued the recent case against the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. Hamell On Trial will be performing, and we'll have even more local speakers and readings of poetry by Guantanamo Bay detainees.

This sunny Sunday, Sep. 17, 2:30 p.m. on Independence Mall in Philadelphia (5th and Market St.), the ACLUs of PA, NJ, and DE want you to join us for one more summer fling - but this time, we're dumping out the picnic basket and calling on Congress and our administration to account for its contents.

Jess in Philly

Monday, September 11, 2006

The challenge of defending freedom

Today's blog entry is an opportunity to reflect on where we are five years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Use the comments section as a place for your own reflections. Here are a few of mine.

Last night on the Discovery Channel, Ted Koppel's special The Price of Security brought together on odd confluence: ACLU executive director Anthony Romero and former Secretary of Homeland Security and former PA Governor Tom Ridge in agreement. Governor Ridge and Anthony echoed a sentiment that has been expressed by others from across the political board. We need to take a hard look at who we are. Governor Ridge talked about friends from overseas who hold a mirror and ask him, "Is this who you are?"

That's where we are five years after that terrible day. We shouldn't be afraid to ask ourselves the hard questions, and our answers shouldn't be the result of being afraid.

Are the people free when the FBI can conduct a search without showing "probable cause," as mandated in the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution? Are we free when the NSA can pipe in on our phone calls and e-mails without connecting us to a terrorist group? The administration claims that they are only conducting surveillance on those who are receiving calls or making calls to terrorist groups, but who is verifying that? No one.

Are we free when political advocacy groups like PETA, Greenpeace, and the Thomas Merton Center find themselves targets of FBI surveillance?

Is this what it means to be an American?
An hour or two later they came back, checked the tautness of his chains and pushed him over on his stomach. Transfixed in his bonds, Omar toppled like a figurine. Again they left. Many hours had passed since Omar had been taken from his cell. He urinated on himself and on the floor. The MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it. The MPs swung him around and around, the piss and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. When the MPs felt they'd successfully pretended to soak up the liquid with his body, they uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.
While he was at Guantanamo, Omar was beaten in the head, nearly suffocated, threatened with having his clothes taken indefinitely and, as at Bagram, lunged at by attack dogs while wearing a bag over his head. "Your life is in my hands," an intelligence officer told him during an interrogation in the spring of 2003. During the questioning, Omar gave an answer the interrogator did not like. He spat in Omar's face, tore out some of his hair and threatened to send him to Israel, Egypt, Jordan or Syria - places where they tortured people without constraints: very slowly, analytically removing body parts. The Egyptians, the interrogator told Omar, would hand him to Asfyri raqm tisa - Soldier Number Nine. Soldier Number Nine, the interrogator explained, was a guard who specialized in raping prisoners.

Omar's chair was removed. Because his hands and ankles were shackled, he fell to the floor. His interrogator told him to get up. Standing up was hard, because he could not use his hands. When he did, his interrogator told him to sit down again. When he sat, the interrogator told him to stand again. He refused. The interrogator called two guards into the room, who grabbed Omar by the neck and arms, lifted him into the air and dropped him onto the floor. The interrogator told them to do it again - and again and again and again. Then he said he was locking Omar's case file in a safe: Omar would spend the rest of his life in a cell at Guantanamo Bay.
("The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr," Rolling Stone, August 24, 2006)

And how would we respond if our service men and women were treated this way by a foreign government or entity?

Choosing between being secure or being free is a false choice. We can be both. No country can guarantee that a terrorist attack will never happen on its territory. China is a perfect example. Abusing civil rights and human rights through torture and a kangaroo court system is the norm for the PRC, but it still has dealt with violent attacks from domestic entities.

In an op-ed in yesterday's Patriot News, Dr. Matthew Woessner from Penn State-Harrisburg suggested that freedom needs to be restricted during this time of "war" and went on to compare the current struggle to World War II and the Cold War. Dr. Woessner justifies this restriction because it has happened during most conflicts in our nation's history.

But WWII ended in three years and eight months. General Anthony Zinni (ret.) stated last night on Koppel's program that those at Central Command consider the current struggle as "the long war" and expect it to last "a generation." Does that mean that freedom will be restricted for decades?

Dr. Woessner's comparison to the Cold War may, in fact, be appropriate. Like the Cold War, the current struggle is between opposing ideologies with occasional outbursts of violence, largely in small countries. The Communists were as feared and as hated as the terrorists. Thousands of Soviet nukes were pointed directly at us, and we could have been obliterated literally at any minute.

But we didn't detain Communists indefinitely throughout the time of the Cold War. We didn't torture Communists. And American presidents from Truman to George H. W. Bush did not shatter the Bill of Rights to defend us from Communists (for the most part). The abuses of freedom that did occur- the McCarthy era, COINTELPRO- were recognized quickly as abuses, not necessities in a time of war.

If anything, the Cold War proved that we can be both safe and free, and there is no reason why we cannot be both safe and free today.

September 11, 2001, is a day we will all remember, and while we're remembering, we should remember what makes this country great. Let us pay homage today to those who lost their lives five years ago. May their deaths not signal the beginning of the end of American freedom.

Andy in Harrisburg

ACLU: Upholding freedom in challenging times

Philadelphia Inquirer: Remember 9/12?

NY Times: 9/11/06

Countdown with Keith Olbermann: This hole in the ground

Friday, September 08, 2006

Another argument for separation of church and state

It's often hard to explain why separation of church and state matters in communities where one faith largely dominates. I hear it all the time - "we're all Christians in this town, so why can't we have a prayer at every school board meeting/graduation/etc.?"

I recently saw an article written by an evangelical Christian appearing on WorldNetDaily that is far more persuasive on this issue than I could ever be. He is against pre-game prayers because of his experience while stationed in Hawaii. He writes, "Christians and others from various Judeo-Christian traditions were in the very distinct minority in this little village that was populated predominantly by people of Japanese and Chinese ancestry. Rather than a church on every corner, as is common in the continental 48 states, Wahiawa had a Shinto or Buddhist shrine on every corner."

Because of their work in their church's youth program, the author and his wife attended a local public high school football game.

Coming from a fairly traditional Southern upbringing, I was not at all initially surprised when a voice came over the PA and asked everyone to rise for the invocation.... But to our extreme dismay, the clergyman who took the microphone and began to pray was not a Protestant minister or a Catholic priest, but a Buddhist priest who proceeded to offer up prayers and intonations to god-head figures that our tradition held to be pagan.

We were frozen in shock and incredulity! What to do? To continue to stand and observe this prayer would represent a betrayal of our own faith and imply the honoring of a pagan deity that was anathema to our beliefs. To sit would be an act of extreme rudeness and disrespect in the eyes of our Japanese hosts and neighbors, who value above all other things deference and respect in their social interactions....

We often advocate the practice of Judeo-Christian rituals in America's public schools by hiding behind the excuse that they are voluntary and any student who doesn't wish to participate can simply remained seated and silent. Oh that this were true. But if I, as a mature adult, would be so confounded and uncomfortable when faced with the decision of observing and standing on my own religious principals or run the risk of offending the majority crowd, I can only imagine what thoughts and confusion must run through the head of the typical child or teenager, for whom peer acceptance is one of the highest ideals.

Amen, brother.

Sara in Philly

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Scandal in the shadows

There's a famous qoute about judging a country on how it treats its prisoners. If that's so, we flunk. Yesterday the Justice Department released a report from its Bureau of Justice Statistics that indicates that more than half of American inmates show symptoms of mental illnes but less than one-third actually get treatment.
Based on a survey of nationally representative samples, the statistics bureau estimated that 56 percent of the nation's 1.25 million state prisoners, 64 percent of its 747,000 jail inmates and 45 percent of its 156,000 federal prisoners reported treatment for or symptoms of major depression, mania or psychotic disorders such as hallucinations or delusions in the last year.

Treatment behind bars was most common among state prisoners -- 34 percent of those reporting symptoms, compared with 24 percent of the troubled federal prisoners and 17 percent of jail inmates with problems. The most common treatment was a prescribed medication, for 27 percent of state, 19 percent of federal and 15 percent of jail inmates with problems.

The Associated Press article includes insights from Jeffrey Beard, PA's secretary of corrections.
"As a society, we could do a better job dealing with the mentally ill -- both in keeping people from coming to prison and how they do when they get out of prison," said Jeffrey Beard, Pennsylvania's secretary of corrections.

He said Pennsylvania has set up community correction centers to get mentally ill inmates out into the world. He said there has been additional money in the past few years at the federal and state level for such projects, "but we could move a little quicker."

Here's one of those ACLU education moments: The organization's National Prison Project is the only national litigation program on behalf of prisoners. Check out the NPP's webpage for more info, including a recently-released, horrifying report about what happened to prisoners during Hurricane Katrina.

Andy in Harrisburg

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Power to the peaceful

Kudos to our friends in Hazleton for their peaceful vigil on Sunday to rally support for their cause in opposing the city's anti-immigrant ordinance. Nerves were jangled after a similar rally in Riverside, New Jersey, on August 20 got ugly with counter-demonstrators waving Confederate flags, doing Nazi salutes, and throwing eggs and tomatoes at the rally participants.

Much love to Dr. Agapito Lopez, the rally's organizer who created conditions to minimize confrontation.

If you missed the news on Friday, the Hazleton ordinance is on-hold while the city revises it.

My next question: When is Hazleton's Unity Festival? An event like those held to counter Fred Phelps and neo-Nazis would be a logical next step in bringing some semblance of positive vibe to the city. Someone should get an organizer on that. Oh, wait. That's me...

Andy in the HBG

Friday, September 01, 2006

Want to be inspired?

Usually I'm posting about the latest thing that's pissed me off, but today I wanted to share with you one of the more inspiring things I've seen in a long time. (It actually brought several of us in our office to tears.)

It's MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann's response to Donald Rumsfeld speech earlier this week, in which he said that those who oppose the administration's policies suffer from ""moral or intellectual confusion." Olbermann responded with a beautiful tribute to democracy and the right to dissent. I'm posting some selected quotes, but you really must see it for yourself.

Video here from, and text from Keith Olbermann's blog.

Some highlights:

"Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as 'his' troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong."

"In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we--as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note--with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too."


Olbermann concludes with a great quote from Edward R. Murrow:

"'We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,' he said, in 1954. 'We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

'We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.'"

Sara in Philly