Tag: free speech

My thoughts about flag burning

A little over 30 miles from my home, a flag-burning case is all over the local news.

In Urbana, Illinois, Bryton Mellott, 22 years of age, was booked by local law enforcement for burning the U.S. flag as a form of political protest. Specifically, Mellott was booked for disorderly conduct and violating the Illinois flag desecration statute, which officially classifies flag desecration as a felony in Illinois.

I want to share my own thoughts about flag burning.

Unless there are aggravating circumstances in a particular case (such as flag burning on government property of any kind, flag burning on private property not owned by the individual burning the flag without permission from the property owner, or causing a broader public danger by burning the flag (such as igniting a wildfire or setting fire to something other than the flag)), flag burning should be considered a form of protected free speech. As someone who comes from a family that has had many family members serve in our nation’s Armed Forces, I regard the U.S. flag as a very important national symbol, and burning the U.S. flag is something that I would never do. If I wish to air some kind of grievance that I have about politics or government policy, I will write a blog post, either on this website or another website, about it. However, as long as no damage is being done to property other than the flag itself, the flag in question is the property of the individual burning it, and the flag burning is taking place on one’s own private property or, if on someone else’s property, with permission from the property owner, I don’t believe that flag burning should be a criminal offense of any kind. Keep in mind that I don’t personally approve of burning the flag as a form of protest, and it is something that I would never even consider doing. If you wish to dispose of a U.S. flag in a proper and dignified manner, I recommend contacting an organization like the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for information before disposing of the flag.

Also, I strongly disapprove of making violent threats towards people, even people who are convicted or accused of criminal activity. We have a judicial system in this country that is built on the principle of due process, not vigilantism.

Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for the University of Illinois’s war on academic freedom

It’s been recently announced that the University of Illinois (U of I) reached a legal settlement with Stephen Saliata, who had a job offer revoked by the U of I because he tweeted his personal opinion about far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch opponent of peace in the Middle East.

Last year, Saliata was offered a tenured professorship at the U of I. After the U of I received backlash from students, alumni, and donors who are to the Netanyahu regime in Israel than they are to America, the U of I pulled their offer of a tenured professorship from Saliata. Saliata rightfully sued the U of I for infringing on his First Amendment right to free speech and infringing upon academic freedom, and the lawsuit has now been settled, but not before the U of I is legally bound to pay out a total of $875,000, $600,000 of which will go to Saliata himself, and $275,000 of which will go to Saliata’s attorneys.

In short, Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for the U of I’s war on academic freedom and caving to pro-Israel interests. Had the U of I actually hired Steven Saliata, it would have cost Illinois taxpayers less than what it cost to settle the lawsuit over not hiring him for political reasons.

Washington NFL Team thinks that redneck trademarks are more offensive than racist sports team nickname

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a large amount of profanity, offensive language, and sexually-suggestive language. Reader discretion is advised.


The Washington NFL Team, whose real nickname I’m not going to mention due to it being offensive to Native Americans, recently filed an opening brief in an ongoing lawsuit against the federal government for stripping the team of the trademark for their racist team nickname. In the opening brief, the team effectively claimed that, among other things, “Redneck Army” apparel, is more offensive than their racist team nickname:

The notion that all two million currently-registered marks are government speech is astounding. It is equally disturbing. The PTO has registered hundreds if not thousands of marks that the Team believes are racist, or misogynistic, vulgar, or otherwise offensive. By way of example only, the following marks are registered today: TAKE YO PANTIES OFF clothing; DANGEROUS NEGRO shirts; SLUTSSEEKER dating services; DAGO SWAGG clothing; DUMB BLONDE beer; TWATTY GIRL cartoons; BAKED BY A NEGRO bakery goods; BIG TITTYBLEND coffee; RETARDIPEDIA website; MIDGET-MAN condoms and inflatable sex dolls; and JIZZ underwear. These are not isolated instances. The government routinely registers pornographers’ marks: TEENSDOPORN.COM, MILFSDOPORN.COM, THUG PORN, GHETTOBOOTY, and BOUND GANGBANGS are but a few.

[…]

…No one today thinks registration reflects government approval. But if this Court holds that it does, how will the government explain registrations like MARIJUANA FOR SALE, CAPITALISM SUCKS DONKEY BALLS, LICENSED SERIAL KILLER, YIDDISH, DIRTY WHOOORE CLOTHING COMPANY, and MURDER4HIRE? Why are numerous confederate-flag logos and so many lewd sexual depictions on a “government-curated Principal Register”? Does registration of THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS unconstitutionally endorse religion? As to the “Principal Register,” the government does not say where it is, what it looks like, or how we can get one. As far as we know, there is no government-issued “list” of registrations; one must conduct cumbersome, multi-step searches of PTO’s internet database.

The Washington NFL Team went even further and cited even more examples of trademarks that they think are more offensive than their racist team nickname that offends Native Americans:

Other startling examples that would reflect government endorsement under the decision below include: SHANK THE B!T@H board game; CRACKAAZZ SKATEBOARDS; ANAL FANTASY COLLECTION, KLITORIS, and OMAZING SEX TOYS sex toys; HOT OCTOPUSS anti-premature ejaculation creams; OL GEEZER wines; EDIBLE CROTCHLESS GUMMY PANTIES lingerie; WTFWORK? online forum; MILF WEED bags; GRINGO STYLE SALSA; MAKE YOUR OWN DILDO; GRINGO BBQ; CONTEMPORARY NEGRO, F’DUP, WHITE TRASH REBEL, I LOVE VAGINA, WHITE GIRL WITH A BOOTY, PARTY WITH SLUTS, CRIPPLED OLD BIKER BASTARDS, DICK BALLS, and REDNECK ARMY apparel; OH! MY NAPPY HAIR shampoos; REFORMED WHORES and WHORES FROM HELL musical bands; LAUGHING MY VAGINA OFF entertainment; NAPPY ROOTS records; BOOTY CALL sex aids; BOYS ARE STUPID, THROW ROCKS AT THEM wallets; and DUMB BLONDE hair products. Word limits prevent us from listing more.

What the Washington NFL Team is effectively trying to argue in federal court is that the majority owner of the team, Dan Snyder, thinks that sexually suggestive trademarks, drug-referencing trademarks, foreign language-referencing trademarks, trademarks for religious organizations, and…you guessed it…redneck trademarks are more offensive than a racist sports team nickname that offends Native Americans. That is so fucking absurd, it’s not funny. I come from a poor family in a redneck part of Illinois, and I am proud to consider myself a redneck. I am deeply offended by the Washington NFL Team’s bullshit argument that trademarks referencing rednecks are more offensive than a racist sports team nickname that offends Native Americans.

Regarding the other trademarks that the Washington NFL Team tried to cite in their defense of their racist team nickname, I’ll say this: if you think that “Take Yo Panties Off”, “Jizz”, “Marijuana for Sale”, “Yiddish”, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”, and/or “Crackaazz Skateboards” are offensive, you either have a small penis, are bigoted, are stupid, or some combination thereof.

The lawsuit is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (4th Cir.), which includes the states of Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Washington NFL Team is headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia and plays its home games in Landover, Maryland.

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

When it comes to climate change, nobody is going to shut me up

Wisconsin has become the second state to ban public employees from talking about climate change, when the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (Wisconsin BCPL) voted 2-1 along partisan lines to ban Wisconsin BCPL employees from talking about climate change. State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk and Attorney General Brad Schimel, both Republicans, voted for the measure, while Secretary of State Doug La Follette, a Democrat, voted against it. Currently and as far as I know, Wisconsin’s climate change gag order only applies to Wisconsin BCPL employees.

This is clearly an attempt to gag Wisconsin BCPL Executive Director Julia Nelson, whose father, Former Democratic U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, came up with the idea for Earth Day. Apparently, Adamczyk and Schimel have not read the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which gives Nelson and everybody else in this country free speech rights. Furthermore, Adamczyk and Schimel apparently think that the Wisconsin BCPL is their plantation where they can control every single aspect of Nelson’s life. Adamczyk and Schimel are clearly violating Nelson’s First Amendment right to free speech, and that is highly unacceptable.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to shut me up when it comes to climate change. Recent climate change, caused primarily, if not exclusively, by human activities like pollution, has already had a major negative impact on this country. For example, global climate change has either led to, or made worse, California’s ongoing drought and flooding in coastal areas caused by rising sea levels.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh violates First Amendment rights of public employees at the behest of the U.S. Olympic Committee

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has signed a decree, at the behest of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), prohibiting Boston city employees from speaking against the Boston bid for the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad, commonly known as the 2024 Summer Olympics:

If you’re a Boston city employee, there’s now an official decree: Don’t badmouth the Olympics.

Documents obtained by the (Boston) Globe through a public records request to City Hall show Mayor Martin J. Walsh has signed a formal agreement with the United States Olympic Committee that bans city employees from criticizing Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

The “joinder agreement” forbids the city of Boston and its employees from making any written or oral statements that “reflect unfavorably upon, denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation” of the International Olympic Committee, the USOC, or the Olympic Games.

Instead, the USOC and the Walsh administration must “work cooperatively together to manage, complete, and promote” the city’s bid to the International Olympic Committee. Boston city employees “shall each promote” the city’s bid “in a positive manner,” the agreement adds.

Make no mistake about it, this is a blatant violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that is part of an ongoing War on the First Amendment by Republicans, corporate Democrats, right-wing judges, political elites, and now the U.S. Olympic Committee. For Marty Walsh, who was supported by Elizabeth Warren in his 2013 Boston mayoral campaign, to do the USOC’s bidding and effectively censor the voices of public employees for political reasons is a disgusting backstab to those who voted him into office.

This is the kind of authoritarian politics I expect from Republicans like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, not from Democrats like Marty Walsh.

U.S. Senate votes 79-18 for proposed constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics

The U.S. Senate has voted to advance a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would effectively repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision and explicitly allow Congress and state legislatures to prohibit corporations, labor unions, and other types of organizations from spending money to directly or indirectly influence the outcome of elections, allows Congress and state legislatures to legally distinguish between corporations and actual people, and enact “reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections”.

The vote was 79 for the amendment and 18 against the amendment. The 18 Senators, all of which are Republicans, who voted against the amendment are, in alphabetical order by last name, John Barasso of Wyoming, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Roberts of Kansas, James Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The 3 Senators who did not vote on the amendment are Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski. At least 67 total votes were required to advance the proposed amendment, due to the U.S. Constitution requiring any constitutional amendment proposed by Congress to be approved by 2/3 majorities of both houses of Congress in order for it to be referred to either state legislatures or state ratifying conventions.

Here’s the text of the proposed amendment:

Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

While the Republican-controlled U.S. House, more than likely, won’t even bring this proposed amendment to a vote there, this is a big victory for people who, like me, would love nothing more than to see the corrupting influence of big money in our country’s political system gone.