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Archive for the ‘civil rights’ Category

Whenever there’s one of these school shootings there’s a quick rush by the NRA to shout “we need better mental health treatment!”. Here’s the thing: Mental illness has nothing to do with school shootings. The DSM5, the master book of diagnosable mental disorders, doesn’t even have a single classification that applies to most school shooters.

Most school shooters are angry. Not mentally ill. The stats are pretty clear — violence by the mentally ill is no more common than violence by non-mentally-ill people. Anger is not a mental illness, otherwise half the shouters on talk radio would be in asylums.

But, you say, threatening to shoot up schools is at least a threat! Well, uhm…. not so fast. First of all, it has to be provably what’s called a “true threat”. It has to cause someone to be alarmed, thus it has to be specific — there has to be someone that is the target of the speech who feels threatened by the speech. Furthermore, the State must prove that you intended for people to feel alarmed. It can’t be a joke mentioned in passing, there has to be intent to cause alarm. You can thus post a YouTube video of you posing with an AR-15 saying “I’m going to be the best school shooter ever!” and it does not qualify under the Elonis Test as a “true threat”. Because it’s not a specific threat against a specific school at a specific time, there’s nothing actionable there — it’s protected speech under the 1st Amendment.

Now, let’s talk about someone who is mentally ill, who is in possession of an AR-15. Surely we can take the AR-15 away from him, right?

Uhm, no. First of all, only those who have been involuntarily committed as a threat to themselves or others lose their gun rights. You can be on more psychotropic drugs than Keith Richards and still be legally allowed to own firearms.

Now, let’s look at what’s necessary to get someone involuntarily committed: Mental health professions must make a case at a court hearing that you present an eminent danger to yourself or others due to a disorder described in the DSM5. They must *prove* that you are a danger. The fact that you utter vague threats is not enough. They have to prove that you’re actually trying to carry out those threats, and furthermore that this is because of a psychiatric condition diagnosable under DSM5. If it’s because of other issues — because, say, someone cut you off in traffic and you threatened to beat his ass, i.e., simple anger (which, remember, is *NOT* a DSM5 psychiatric disorder) — then you won’t be involuntarily committed.

The reality is that the bar for involuntary commitment is so high in the United States, thanks to past abuses of the process, that basically the only way you can be involuntarily committed as a threat to others is if you’ve already done harm to others. You have a 4th Amendment right to be secure in your person against seizure by the state. Simply ranting that you intend to do harm to (non-specific) others is insufficient to violate that right, you have to have actually done something that is harmful to yourself or others or at least credibly threatens yourself and others. And remember, you have to do this while being diagnosable with a condition under DSM5 and it must be related to your diagnosis. Simply uttering threats and ranting aren’t enough, otherwise Alex Jones would be in jail.

In short: Better access to mental health treatment would certainly be nice. But it won’t stop school shootings, and the people claiming it does are just lying to you when they say it would. And the way the Constitution works, there’s nothing — zero — that the police can do beforehand in most cases. “I hate school” is protected speech under the 1st Amendment. “I hate school and I wish someone would shoot it up” is protected speech under the 1st Amendment (see: Brandenburg v. Ohio, it has to be a specific incitement to a specific person to do a specific thing, wishful thinking isn’t enough). Even saying “I will be the best school shooter ever” isn’t enough. The 1st Amendment protects speech that is ominous but not specific. For the vast majority of school shooters, there is nothing — zero, nada — that can be done beforehand. They can’t be committed. They can’t be charged with issuing threats. All that can happen is that the police issue a notice to schools to be on the lookout for this person and call the police if you see them on your campus. Even that’s problematic, because the city or county could be sued for defamation.

The reality is that there’s only one sure-fired solution for school shootings, and that is to outlaw the weapons most used in school shootings — pistols and rifles with box magazines. Nobody has ever done a school shooting with a .38 revolver and nobody has ever done a school shooting with a single-shot bolt action rifle or lever gun. And because of this reality, the NRA and their cronies in power are quick to redirect attention to mental health, police failing to follow up on threatening speech, etc… none of which, thanks to the 1st and 4th Amendments, are anything that the police can do anything about.

– Badtux the Civil Liberties Penguin

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As some of you know, Roger Stone, a close advisor to Donald Trump, got kicked off of Twitter for tweets cursing out and threatening CNN reporters. So how does Roger Stone react to this? Does he laugh and say “well, I disagree with their actions, but they’re a private business and can choose to do business with whomever they please”? Is that how he reacted?

Well, no. First he raised a hissy fit, threatening Twitter via right wing media. Twitter took notice and then made his 3 day suspension into a permanent ban — deleting his entire Twitter account, tweets included. (Actually, Twitter accounts are never physically deleted, they’re kept around in case law enforcement needs to look at them, but effectively it’s gone). Because as a private business, they decided they don’t want Roger Stone as a customer anymore. So they exercised their freedom of association by choosing not to associate with him.

So what did Roger Stone do then? Did he apologize to Twitter in hopes of getting his account back?

Well, of course not. That would require some level of self-introspection. Instead: Roger Stone says that he will sue Twitter.

Will sue.

A private business.

For exercising its freedom of association.

For exercising a right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, the right of freedom of association — or non-association, in this case.

So, Roger Stone: In the past, you supported the right of the Boy Scouts to exercise their freedom of association in order to not associate with homosexuals. So at one time, you apparently believed private organizations had freedom of association. When did you convert to Communism — the notion that private property and private organizations shouldn’t exist? Why do you believe Twitter is or should be public property with no right of freedom of association as guaranteed by the Constitution for private entities?

Curious penguins are… curious!

– Badtux the “Hypocrisy, much?” Penguin

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(*) Exclusions apply. Offer void if you are a poor person in South Carolina, in which case you get jailed without ever seeing a lawyer. Offer void if you own property that the police want to own, in which case it gets taken from you without you being charged with any crime. Offer void if you’re a black man running away from the police. Offer void if you are one of the 2/3rds of Americans who live in a Constitution-free “border zone”.

Offer void unless your net worth is at least $100,000,000. In that case, you have plenty of liberty and justice, even to the point of being able to take a public beach and make it your own private beach in defiance of California law.

Because remember, all men were created equal, but some are more equal than others.

— Badtux the “Some exclusions apply” Penguin

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So says Mike Ditka.

15 year old Elizabeth Eckford wasn’t being oppressed as she attempted to be the first black student in Little Rock High, she was merely being alt-welcomed.

Patrick Harmon wasn’t being oppressed by being shot in the back for being black in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was alt-rewarded.

Rosa Parks wasn’t being oppressed by being arrested for sitting at the front of the bus, she was being alt-praised.

The black day care worker in Pennsylvania wasn’t being oppressed by her employer getting a bigotted letter telling them to fire her for spreading black cooties to their children, she was being alt-praised.

Four little girls killed by a KKK bomb in Birmingham, Alabama weren’t being oppressed. They were being….

Oh fuck it. Mike Ditka is a fucking dumbass who played too much without a helmet.

That is all.

– Badtux the Oppression Penguin

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Racists to the left, liberals to the right? WTF, NOPD?

Take a look at the flags on the left. Specifically, the white flags with a black cross on them. That’s the flag of the League of the South, a Southern secessionist organization whose leader has a bad habit of saying racist and bigoted things in the pages of their magazine. Things like “In a free & independent South, Islam would be banned, Muslims deported, and all mosques closed down.” They’re protesting the take-down of racist monuments in New Orleans, Louisiana.

A friend of mine suggested that the statue of Jefferson Davis that the City of New Orleans pulled down a couple of days ago be replaced with a statue of Ruby Bridges. I snorted. Yeah, that’d certainly send the racist bigots into spittle-flecked rage!

But that got me to thinking about Norman Rockwell. Which seems strange at first glance. The beloved painter of Midwestern schlock?

But in 1963 Norman Rockwell painted this:

The Problem We All Live With

Norman Rockwell was in his late 60’s when he painted this scathing condemnation of racism, depicting Ruby Bridges integrating the New Orleans Public Schools in 1960, flanked by four hulking Deputy U.S. Marshals enforcing the court order. How does a man at that time of life, a time of life when most people’s thinking becomes ossified, suddenly decide that civil rights are important enough to basically set his career aside and dive in with something like this?

Given all the neo-Confederate and White Power signs I saw around the demolishing of the Jackson Square monument to white supremacy, it looks like we took two steps forward, but have gone one step backward. But I am always in awe of the fact that sometimes courage comes in small packages as well as large, the courage of a small child and the courage of an old man who has nothing to prove but plenty to stand for. Seems to me that we need some more of that, today — people today do what’s convenient, rather than doing the right thing. Because the right thing is hard. But without people doing the right thing, evil wins.

And sometimes it takes a sixty-something-year-old painter of cornball schlock — and a six year old child — to point that out.

– Badtux the Wistful Penguin

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And they kicked a blind woman and her guide dog off a plane because they didn’t want to re-seat her to someplace where her dog could sit on the floor in front of her. Despite the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act says they have to accomodate her and re-seat her if a seat can be found.

But they’re American Airlines, which has a long history of violating the law regarding service dogs. They regularly harass and bully people and claim impunity. They have even continued this conduct after signing a consent decree saying they wouldn’t do it anymore.

This is, of course, a blatant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they don’t care about the law, because they don’t have to — a federal government that is 100% owned by big corporations is refusing to enforce the law against said big corporations.

So in short, American Airlines is a criminal enterprise that refuses to obey the law, and the government refuses to enforce the law against it. That’s the sort of situation that leads to massive lawsuits or, if lawsuits have been barred by law, eventually leads to violent revolution. And violent revolution never ends up well for the country that does it. I can’t remember one that turned out well, whether it was the Russian Revolution that put the Communists in charge, or the Egyptian Revolution that put the Islamists then the Army in charge, all that happens is that the most violent win and then impose their will upon the rest of the people at gunpoint.

— Badtux the “These people are criminals” Penguin

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Yep, it’s true. The 1st Amendment applies to government employees too. Which is why these government employees can set up their own unofficial Twitter feeds on their own private time:

resistance

So, what about all the gag orders that are coming down from the Trump administration, saying that government employees cannot speak to the media etc.? They are only effective while the employee is at work. Once the employee has left work, the employee has all the same 1st Amendment rights as you and I and can speak as much as he wants, as long as he makes it clear that he is speaking for himself and not for his department.

In short, any attempt to prevent government scientists from releasing government research *on their own time*, or submitting papers to scientific journals *on their own time*, or preventing agency officials from tweeting climate change facts *on their own time*, are blatantly unconstitutional and illegal. The data is public domain. The government legally cannot restrict access to it in any way.

Will that stop the Trump administration? Nope. They’ll fire the employees, then fight the inevitable lawsuits. Then Congress will set the employee’s salary to $1, which basically is the same as firing him. Which will result in *another* lawsuit, since that blatantly violates the Civil Service laws set by Congress, and the Democrats in the Senate for damn sure ain’t gonna let a repeal of Civil Service through without filibustering it. Which is one reason why these feeds are being kept semi-anonymous. It’s easy to figure out who’s behind them, if you have an org chart of the agencies in question, but proving it — and creating an excuse to fire the people behind it — is quite a bit harder.

But in the meantime, it’s hilarious that National Park Service rangers and a dictionary are leading the resistance against the Trump regime….

– Badtux the Free Speech Penguin

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