Tag Archives: personal freedom

Pussy Riot Verdict Another Boot to Face For Russia’s Fledgling Freedom of Speech

Three members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison last week for protesting the Russian Orthodox Church and President Vladimir Putin in a church.

Three members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison last week for protesting the Russian Orthodox Church and President Vladimir Putin in a church.

Even though the 2012 election had long since been a foregone conclusion to anyone with a basic understanding of the facts on the ground, there was still a fair deal of resistance to the inevitability of the soon-to-be reelection of Vladimir Putin. In addition to the ability to vote against Mr. Putin and participate in (the few remaining legal) opposition rallies, there were some off-the-beaten-path protests. One of the more notable ones came on the 21st of February, when a female punk rock group called Pussy Riot showed up at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour church in Moscow. After making the sign of the cross, they began to perform the song “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” as cameras rolled – the video intended for a music video. They were quickly whisked away by guards.

On the 3rd of March, the day before the election, two of the group’s members were arrested and charged with hooliganism. With the election of Mr. Putin sowed up in a total demolishing of the opposition the next day (63.6% for Mr. Putin, 17.18% for the next closest), the Russian legal system moved forward with making sure that the message was heard loud and clear: dissent against the established order will not be tolerated. A third member of the group was arrested on the 16th. The short trial began on the 30th of July and by the 17th of August the verdict was handed down – guilty, with two years imprisonment up next. The presiding judge, Judge Syrova, announced the verdict with this full-throated announcement that the not-state-religion (of which its leader strongly endorses Mr. Putin) trumps any freedom of speech concerns:

The Court considers that social justice and prevention of further possible crimes can only be achieved by restricting the defendants’ freedom and real imprisonment,” Judge Syrova said.

“By their actions, Samutsevich, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina seriously disrupted public order and the day-to-day running of the Cathedral. They showed blatant disrespect to church-goers and workers, and in doing so gravely offended their religious sensibilities.”

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In the name of national security, we must touch you there

If anyone else got to touch you like this when unwanted, it would count as molestation.  This?  This is for your safety.

If anyone else got to touch you like this when unwanted, it would count as molestation. This? This is for your safety.

Starting in the beginning of November of this year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began carrying out a new policy for screening travelers at airports nationwide.  These have included two potentially privacy-breaching screening methods: backskatter x-ray machines that can see through your clothing and provide some rather interesting, if blurred, naked pictures of you and your family, and – should you choose to skip the mostly-nude photography – “enhanced patdowns”.

The colors of the government don’t really matter much, their twisting of language is what really is awe-inspiring over time.  There was never any torture, it was enhanced interrogations.  There is no assault, sexual abuse, or other infringements on citizens’ privacy, there are enhanced patdowns.  While the former took place in dark rooms well out of the view of the American people, the latter is happening right now, very publicly, out in the open for everyone to see.  Security theater is on display.  It’s an interactive experience, and it’s going to touch you.

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When do we mature to talk about “dirty” things?

This story starts and finishes easy enough, with some kid from some college asking a dumb question of the President that he should have already known the answer to.  For this we reach back to a town hall discussion held by President Obama in December of 2009 in Pennsylvania, where a sophomore from Lehigh Carbon Community College asked if the President would consider legalizing prostitution, gambling, drugs, and non-violent crime in a bid to stimulate the economy.

The President’s answer was quick and to the point:

“I appreciate the boldness of your question,” Mr. Obama said during his Allentown, PA jobs town hall, “That will not be my job strategy.”

Obama would go on to sing the student’s praises for challenging conventional wisdom, which is what college kids are apparently supposed to do – and subsequently stop doing once they reach the real world.

My question is simple: Why?

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Alexander the Great can still cause wars? (QH: 28 July 2009)

In today’s edition: Alexander the Great, the UK continuing to go off the privacy deep end, albinos being hunted for magic, and a birther followup…

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Starting off with a non-Iran international story today, the Washington Post is reporting on an apparent rift that is opening up between the countries Greece and Macedonia over, of all things, Alexander the Great.  The landlocked country of Macedonia is technically known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM.  This was done at the demand of it’s southern neighbour, Greece, which claimed that the country’s official name according to its constitution, Republic of Macedonia, is actually a tacit attempt of annexing the Grecian province of Greek Macedonia and presents a threat to the country.  To combat this, Greece has in the past blocked the country from joining the United Nations, imposed a crippling economic blockade, vetoed its attempt to join NATO and is preventing the country from joining the European Union until it changes its name.  Really.

Then there’s Alexander The Great…

Alexander the Great died more than 2,300 years ago. But his cult of personality is just starting to grip this tiny Balkan country.To the annoyance of next-door Greece, which has long claimed the conqueror as its own, Macedonia has anointed Alexander its national hero. The government has renamed the international airport here in his honor, as well as the main highway to Greece. Soon to come: a 72-foot-tall marble colossus of Alexander astride his favorite warhorse, Bucephalus, which will dominate the skyline of the capital, Skopje.

Perhaps if Macedonia was a strong regional power looking to turn into an empire there might be something here, but according to Macedoian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, the army consists of “8,000 troops and a fleet of eight helicopters”.

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For all of the worries in America (mainly among liberals) that our country was encroaching on rights of freedom or rights to privacy, one must remind theirself over and over that we are nowhere near the crazy rendition of rights that some other supposedly free Western countries are inflicting on theirselves, most notably amongst those being the backdrop of the book 1984 itself, Airstrip One/United Kingdom.

If sifting through a couple dozen pages of the UK’s Home Office report doesn’t suit you this evening, this summary is also nice:

We’d all like to help the police to do their job well. They, in turn, would like to have a massive database with DNA profiles from everyone who has been arrested, but not convicted of a crime.

Gold star to the first country that implements precogs

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Down go the birthers.  By a 378 – 0 margin.  Better luck on the next conspiracy, right wing.

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The Boston Globe has an excellent and absolutely heartbreaking photo essay up tonight (among two others) dealing with the plights of Albino people in non-western nations.  The captions for these photos speak better than anything I could say…

While albinos in sub-Saharan Africa have faced discrimination for many years, their situation has become far more dangerous in recent years in Tanzania. Albinos in Tanzania are increasingly targeted by those who would kill them for their body organs, limbs and even hair to be used in luck potions by others seeking wealth and good fortune in business and professional circles. According to local residents, witch doctors use the organs and bones in concoctions to divine for diamonds in the soil, while fishermen have been known to weave albino hair into their nets hoping for a big catch on Lake Victoria. More than 50 albinos have been killed in Tanzania and neighboring Burundi in the past year – prompting a network of protective services and a few arrests and murder trials which have been fast-tracked by the Tanzanian government.

Killed for magic

Killed for magic

Mabula, 76, crouches beside his bed January 25, 2009 in his mud-thatched bedroom in a village near Mwanza near the grave of his granddaughter, five-year-old Mariam Emmanuel, an Albino who was murdered and mutilated in an adjacent room in February of 2008 and who was buried inside the mud hut to discourage grave robbers who commonly dig up albino bones. (TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Take Advantage of the Phelps Story: Pot is not the End of Man

Propaganda: Works in America, too

Propaganda: Works in America, too

Michael Phelps, the celebrated American athlete from his amazing performance in the 2008 Olympic Games, has made headlines within the past few days on a picture that has surfaced of him taking a hit out of a bong – and subsequently admitting that he did, in fact, smoke pot.

That would be Michael Phelps.  The guy with 14 Olympic gold medals, the most in the history of the games.  The guy guy with 26 individual and world records.  One of the most proficient athletes in his sport, one of the most proficient athletes of all time.  Successful.  Good at what he does.  The top of his game.

…and a pot smoker.

So those in the world who would like to control what people do with their bodies and those who buy into such propaganda are expected to, and are already falling in line with increasing calls for condemnation of what Phelps has done – because an Olympian smoking pot is inherently worse than half of the things that athletes in the for-pay sports world get away with.  Also, because pot is just pure evil, as we all know.

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Maybe if you just stop being Muslim, you’ll get to fly unbothered again

A hat-tip to the Washington Post for this latest head-smacking example of the uglier side of our brave new world…

Officials ordered nine Muslim passengers, including three young children, off an AirTran flight headed to Orlando from Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon after two other passengers overheard what they thought was a suspicious remark.

Happy New Year, it looks like we were just as paranoid in 2008 as we are starting out 2009. More wonderful details beyond the flip…
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Then they came for the activists and dissenters, and I said nothing as I was neither…

Between Hurricane Gustav’s slamming into Louisiana, John McCain’s rather inexplicable Vice President choice, and Obama’s thunderous speech last Thursday night, it’s understandable if other smaller stories fall through the cracks and don’t get the attention they deserve. I just always thought that “gross violation of freedom of speech & privacy” perpetrated by the police in seemingly random raids across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area would rise above being a simple “smaller story”.

Apparently not.

At first glance, the report sounds sinister and dangerous-sounding enough:

Aided by informants planted in protest groups, authorities raided at least six buildings across St. Paul and Minneapolis to stop an “anarchist” plan to disrupt this week’s Republican National Convention.

From Friday night through Saturday afternoon, officers surrounded houses, broke down doors, handcuffed scores of people and confiscated suspected tools of civil disobedience.

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To See Rights Fade For A Cause You Can’t Be On The Wrong Side Of…

TechDirt stole my thunder, but I shall opine nevertheless. It’s quite sad how little attention this is getting outside the corners of the internet where tech-savvy people gather, but perhaps the media thinks those are the only people who would understand it. The overriding theme, the sound bite, the message, it’s loud and clear and it can’t be argued against:

Internet Service Provider X shuts down access to deep dark portion of the Internet where only pedophiles hang out. Your children are safer now!

You have carte blanche to do whatever you want in this country if you can somehow, in some vague way – with connections basic enough so Joe-casual-news-reader can understand – tie it into protecting the children. If the appearance of the children being protected looks good enough, it doesn’t matter what reality actually is.

Besides, a good portion of people out there probably have no idea what Usenet is.

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We torture our own citizens. We torture our own vets. We torture our own.

I try, lord do I ever try to keep optimistic on this country and its future. I keep telling myself we are living in a bad dream that makes up the first decade of the 21st century, a bad dream we will wake up from in the next decade and the decade after – some time in my life, basically.

And then there’s this

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted.

Or worse.

For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.

There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut.

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You can take our freedom, just make sure I get my fucking vacation!

The Dog Days of Summer have come to the nation’s capital. The politicians have fled town – and who could blame them? I know of a dozen better places to spend my time than in the middle of a former swamp during that time of year where you can take a knife to the air and cut yourself a drink of water. Then again, I’m not one of the 535 people charged with representing a sect of people in the United States. I don’t have a job to do in D.C.

It began Friday evening. It always begins on Friday evenings. Why do the worst things that happen in this country in a government-related sense begin, or are announced, on Friday evenings? Anyway, breaking news bulletins crossed the television, announcing that negotiations between the Senate and the White House on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Back when the act came into effect in 1978, though controversial it was intended to be a legal means to spy on foreign intelligence working in this country. It was one of the laws warped by 2001′s USA PATRIOT Act to include that wide blanket group of “terrorists” and their sympathizers, which depending on who’s running what, can include people from actual legitimate terrorist organizations, to someone on the street wearing a “Buck Fush” t-shirt.

The negotiations taking place between the Senate and the White House seemed to center around the usage of illegal wiretaps against American citizens – something which the NSA and AT&T have turned into an art form over the past decade in their efficiency and scope of recording powers. There was a glimmer of hope earlier on that Friday evening that perhaps tonight was the night we would see the Congress stand up for the vast majority of Americans who are sick and tired of this administration, and this administration abusing its authority with regularity. I was one of the people hoping.
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