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Friday Roundup

Back to the Future.  For those of us who grew up in the 60's, having your own FBI file was a rite of passage.  Of course, we didn't know it at the time; it wasn't until later that the full extent of spying on domestic organizations was revealed.  The worst abuse in this area was by the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, which for twenty years used state agents to infiltrate civil rights groups.  Disbanded in 1977, the Commission's files were opened by court order in 1998.  Among other revelations was the fact that the state was involved in the murder of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Miss.:  one of its investigators gave the license plate number of one of the workers to the Commission, who in turn provided it to the sheriff of Neshoba County, who was subsequently implicated in the murders.

Well, the increased concern about security since 9/11 has led to an upsurge in "political spying," as evidenced by the ACLU's recent report, "Policing Free Speech."  Among the incidents:

  • LAPD Special Order #11, dated March 5, 2008 includes a list of 65 behaviors LAPD officers “shall” report. The list includes such innocuous, clearly subjective, and First Amendment‐protected activities as, taking measurements, using binoculars, taking pictures or video footage “with no apparent esthetic value,” drawing diagrams, taking notes, and espousing extremist views.
  • During the 2004 and 2005 Air‐Sea Shows, the Friends Meeting of Ft. Lauderdale distributed information about conscientious objection to recruiters and interested civilians and handed out peace literature. Peter Ackerman learned that this action had landed him on a government watchlist when, shortly after news broke about domestic surveillance by the Department of Defense, a local reporter called him and asked if he was a "credible threat".
  • The Maryland State Police spied on more than 30 activist groups, mostly peace groups and anti‐death penalty advocates, and wrongly identified 53 individual activists and about two dozen organizations as terrorists. The Maryland State Police shared information about these cases with the Baltimore City Police Department, the Baltimore County Police Department, the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the Washington‐Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, a local police representative of the FBI’s JTTF, a National Security Agency security official, an unnamed military intelligence officer, and DHS.
  • A plain‐clothes Harvard University detective was caught photographing people at a peaceful protest for “intelligence gathering” purposes. Protesters who then photographed the officer were arrested. HUPD officers are sworn special State Police officers often work “in conjunction with other agencies, including the Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police, Cambridge Police, Somerville Police, and many federal agencies.” A university spokesman refused to say what the HUPD does with the photographs it takes for “intelligence gathering” purposes, so it is unknown whether this information was shared.

Bullshit lawsuit of the week™.  "Kim Kreis, et al. v. American Multi-Cinema Inc.; AMC Entertainment Inc., No. CGC-10-501102 (San Francisco Super. Ct. filed June 25, 2010).

"Trip and fall lawsuit. The plaintiffs injured themselves on a stationary escalator at the defendants' movie theatre, as there was no sign posted warning them that it was not moving."

  To the point.  The recent push for laws banning texting while driving has me somewhat flummoxed.  As I'd mentioned recently, despite the supposed technological prowess necessary to run my own blog, I've never sent a text message.  The complications inherent in doing that while sitting at my desk pale in comparison to what I would imagine are involved in texting while simultaneously trying to maneuver a car through rush-hour -- or any -- traffic.  But there must be a lot of people doing it, else why would a law prohibiting it be necessary?

Still, for those of us who don't subscribe to the belief that for every ill of society, the first response should be, "Let's pass a law making it a crime to do it," the church message here suggests that education of the risks might be a suitable alternative, and that in any event, the application of simple Darwinist principles might solve the problem in due course.

Ethnic stereotypes 101.  If by some chance the Republicans muster enough votes to deny Elena Kagan a Supreme Court seat, she may want to look into getting a steady gig on the Comedy Channel, as witnessed by this exchange during her confirmation hearings, when Sen. Lindsey Graham was asking her about whether the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who failed in his attempt to blow up an airliner this past Christmas, should've been Mirandized before he was interrogated:

GRAHAM:  Where were you on Christmas Day?

KAGAN:  Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.

She might want to be the opening act for this guy:


The Briefcase will be off on Monday, just like all of you.


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