Dr. Fauci declares gun violence is a public health issue. I say, “YES!”

Dr. Anthony Fauci said (last) Sunday that the “horrifying” spate of mass shootings in the U.S. shows why gun violence is a public health issue.

“As a public health person, I think you can’t run away from that,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when host Dana Bash asked if gun violence is a “public health emergency.”

“I mean, in this last month, it’s just been horrifying,” replied Fauci, the U.S. government’s foremost infectious disease expert. “How can you say that’s not a public health issue?”

When criminal violence, when cold-blooded murder is minimalized as a defense of 2nd Amendment Rights…that is a corrupt act. As a lifelong gun owner, I may be irritated by legal checks and balances initiated to prevent criminals or demented mass killers from easy legal access to firearms. So be it! I would rather survive another American bureaucracy…than to be guilty of giving in to the myth of our founders’ foresight…defending muzzleloaders used to fend off invading redcoats. A myth spelled out by people who had no idea of the future of blood spilled every week in this land by nutters armed with modern auto-loading firearms and quick-change magazines.

Black Cop doing his job, protecting KKK scum, speaks out

The officer stands calmly as a group of white supremacists act out behind him. One man’s outstretched right arm signals a Nazi salute. Another wears a red hood. A third rests a Confederate flag on his shoulder.

❝ The provocative scene that Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, captured with an iPhone, was shared with a modest public following but would attract a wide audience. “Confederate flags, Nazi salutes, and Klansmen having their rights protected by a black police officer,” reads a tweet posted on Aug. 12 by Ubadah Sabbagh, a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech. “This picture hurts.” James P. O’Neill, commissioner of the New York City Police Department, shared the image and commended law enforcement in Charlottesville “for handling today’s events with true professionalism. Much respect.” Tim Hogan, a former member of the Hillary for America communications team, tweeted it, too: “A picture worth a thousand words.” A writer, Yashar Ali, suggested the image be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “A black police officer protecting a group of men who wish him harm,” he wrote in a tweet. “Incredible.”

He prefaced that remark with a question common during breaking news: “Who took this photo?”…

❝ The image spread further after a speeding car smashed into counterdemonstrators—sending bodies flying, killing one woman and injuring 19 others…As the retweets entered into the tens of thousands…A reverse image search on Google pointed…that the image was not from Aug. 12. Among the comments was a link…“This picture was taken at the KKK rally July 8th in Charlottesville, Virginia.”…

A school resource officer at Charlottesville High School, Darius Nash, confirmed to TIME on Aug. 14 that it was he in the photograph…

❝ “I don’t feel like I’m a hero for it,” Nash wrote…”I swore to protect my city and that’s what I was there to do. I don’t think it makes me a hero, just doing what I believe in.”…

Nice job of journalistic research. Even better job by the Black cop standing up for Constitutional principles – protecting the scum of the Earth from retribution outside the law. Doing his job.

The Feds secretly subpoenaed the chat app Signal earlier this year

❝ Earlier this year, Open Whisper Systems was served with a federal subpoena for records on its users, according to documents published today. Prosecutors were seeking data on two suspects who used Signal, an encrypted chat app produced by Open Whisper. Unfortunately for the government, Signal keeps only minimal logs on users, so the vast majority of the requested information was unavailable.

❝ The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Open Whisper Systems in the fight, has published a number of court filings related to the the request. Portions of the filings are redacted and much about the subpoena is still secret — including the case number, the date it was served, and the details of the underlying case — but it’s clear that the government sought detailed information on the users including subscriber name, payment information, and associated IP addresses.

It’s also clear that almost none of that information was ultimately produced. One of the phone numbers named by the government did not correspond to a Signal account, and logs on the other number showed only when the user first signed up for the service and when they most recently logged in.

❝ Crucially, the request was filed under gag order, and Open Whisper was only able to publish the documents after a significant legal fight. That has become standard practice for such requests, although many legal scholars believe widespread use of the tactic presents a threat to free speech.

Not that the Department of Justice or any US government I can recall – liberal or conservative – cares a rat’s ass about Constitutional rights when the secret police boffins declare an event to be a question of national security. The creeps get to redefine the rules governing themselves. No democracy, no oversight, no transparency.

Feds want Indefinite prison time for suspect who won’t decrypt hard drives

US federal prosecutors urged a federal appeals court late Monday to keep a child-porn suspect behind bars — where he already has been for seven months — until he unlocks two hard drives that the government claims contain kid smut.

The suspect, a Philadelphia police sergeant relieved of his duties, has refused to unlock two hard drives and has been in jail ever since a judge’s order seven months ago — and after being found in contempt of court. The defendant can remain locked up until a judge lifts the contempt order.

The government said…he should remain jailed indefinitely until he complies. The authorities also said that it’s not a violation of the man’s Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination because it’s a “foregone conclusion” that illegal porn is on the drives and that he is only being asked to unlock the drives, not divulge their passcodes…

The suspect has not been charged with any child-porn related crimes, yet he is imprisoned in Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center for refusing to decrypt two drives encrypted with Apple’s FileVault software in a case that highlights the federal government’s war on encryption. A federal magistrate has ordered him imprisoned “until such time that he fully complies” with the decryption order.

The man’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Keith Donoghue, is demanding that the appeals court immediately release his client from prison because he is being “held without charges.”…

In winning the contempt-of-court order, the authorities cited a 1789 law known as the All Writs Act to compel the suspect to decrypt. The All Writs Act was the same law the Justice Department asserted in its legal battle with Apple, in which a magistrate judge ordered Apple to produce code to enable the FBI to decrypt the iPhone used by one of two shooters who killed 14 people at a San Bernardino County government building in December. The case was dropped when the authorities paid a reported $1 million for a hack.

The Supreme Court has never addressed the compelled decryption issue.

Not that I have any confidence in the current Supreme Court – or whatever it turns out to be after the next elections. Defending the Constitution – much less evaluating constitutional freedoms in the 21st Century – is not something today’s crap conservatives care about. It simply isn’t important in an era perfectly willing to establish a police state as the law of the land.

We have been down this road before. Most famously in the tail end of the McCarthy Era, a judge in New Hampshire ordered Dr, Willard Uphaus held in contempt of court for refusing to turn over a list of everyone who attended his World Fellowship camp. Folks interested in global peace gathered in Albany, New Hampshire in convocation for decades. Willard Uphaus refused to collaborate in a witch hunt led by the state’s attorney general and the result was imprisonment under court order. One of the most despicable violations of constitutional rights in a period notorious for teetering on the edge of fascism.

Eventually, Dr. Uphaus was released. All we have today is a different set of scumbags ready and willing to enable what properly is called a police state. There always is a scurrilous reason to cloak the appeal of coppers and crooked judges. The point remains, folks – we can’t protect the rights of individuals unless we protect the rights of everyone.

A young Muslim woman introduces President Obama visiting her mosque

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Click to get to the video

In her introduction to Obama’s speech, a young Muslim woman, Sabah Muktar, explained why the visit is important to her and other Muslim Americans:

In these uncertain times, some of us might find ourselves doubting where we fit in this society. Personally, this visit by our president is an affirmation to all Muslims; we are just as American as any other. It’s a gesture that invites inclusiveness of all faiths and color. More importantly, it’s an assurance for the Muslim-American kids constantly bombarded by anti-Islamic rhetoric that they belong…

I strongly believe to a lot of Muslims out there, the appearance of our president in our local mosque today does exactly just that. And personally, reassures me that I, a proud black, Muslim African American, am just as American and have the obligation to fulfill my loyalty to my country as any other.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

Religions still try to impose ideology on employees — courts say NO!

Four Roman Catholic nonprofits in New York must allow employees access to contraception, a federal appeals court panel ruled on Friday, reversing a decision by a lower court that allowed the organizations to get around a requirement in the Affordable Care Act.

Six other circuit courts around the country deciding on similar arguments involving religious groups have come to similar conclusions, the unanimous three-judge panel noted in its decision, which was written by Judge Rosemary S. Pooler for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York…

Under the Affordable Care Act, religious nonprofits that object on religious grounds to providing contraception can opt out by completing a one-page form. Then, a third party, either an insurance company or a health insurance administrator, takes over providing and coordinating payments for the employees’ contraceptives.

The four New York groups — a Catholic high school in the Bronx and another on Staten Island, as well as two Catholic health care systems — argued that the opt-out sheet imposed a “substantial burden” on their religious freedom. Either they had to offer “access to products and services they find objectionable,” as Judge Pooler summarized it, or they faced high fines…

…Judge Pooler wrote that the opt-out form was, in fact, “a modicum of paperwork” that “relieves, rather than imposes, any substantial burden” on the plaintiffs’ religious freedom.

“Eligible organizations are provided the opportunity to freely express their religious objection to such coverage as well as to extricate themselves from its provision,” she wrote. “At the same time, insured individuals are not deprived of the benefits of contraceptive coverage.”

As an alternative to the opt-out form, which is sent to the federal Labor Department, religious groups may send a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services “detailing their religious objections in their own words,” and the government would then notify insurance administrators…

Brigitte Amiri, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief in the case, said: “It’s a huge victory for all the female employees who work at the organizations. The scorecard is really 7-0 in the Courts of Appeals on this issue.”

It’s also another victory for Americans who believe that our Constitution even in early days was a document that guaranteed freedom from religions interfering with civil rights, individually and collectively. Although a few generations of cowards and opportunist politicians in Congress and the White House have diminished the strength of those freedoms – obviously, there are individuals with integrity still within the judicial portion of our government.

Certainly, we run the continued risk of conservative ideologues – and demagogues – trying to defeat that protection through political maneuvering. Again, via Congress and the White House. As limited as we may be by the device of an institutionalized 2-party political system, the electoral college and state-based limitations on voting rights, we must utilize every avenue available to us to protect our rights.

Fortunately, my personal convictions do not include treating my right to vote as a religion. I need not and do not limit that activity to standards of purity. It’s as limited as so many aspects of our life by the choices we have available. That includes the limits of an ignorant, lazy-ass body politic.

Congratulations to our LGBT friends and relatives – Constitutional progress prevails

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White House illuminated in celebration, tonight

A special Thank You to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is the sole traditional American conservative within that court. The sole honest conservative in that court. Willing to look forward, willing to join in building progress and understanding in a nation still wracked by divisions grounded in hate and fear on the Right.

Including the syllabus of the original filing, here is the Supreme Court’s decision [.pdf] – which Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Texas attorney general: “ban on same-sex marriage promotes childbirth” – Really?

Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage allows the state to promote the birth and upbringing of children in “stable, lasting relationships”, the state’s attorney general argued Tuesday while asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the ban…

“Because same-sex relationships do not naturally produce children, recognizing same-sex marriage does not further these goals to the same extent that recognizing opposite-sex marriage does,” the brief said.

Mark Pharriss, a longtime friend of Greg Abbott’s who along with his partner sued the state over the ban, argued that the real harm to children is done when their parents aren’t granted “the benefits and protections of a marriage”.

Our constitutional rights are not up for the vote of Texas citizens,” he said. “That point has been made unanimously by every district court and now two circuit courts who have looked at this issue.”

A federal judge declared Texas’ ban unconstitutional in February but allowed it to remain in effect during the appeal process.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the US supreme court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, though most are under appeal. Lawsuits challenging such bans have been filed in all 31 states that prohibited same-sex marriage, while 19 states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.

Abbott is the front-runner to replace Texas Governor Rick Perry, also an opponent of gay marriage. Abbott’s Democratic opponent, state Senator Wendy Davis, has applauded the ruling invalidating the gay marriage ban.

Since idjits tend to keep on electing idjits, Abbott is probably assured election to replace the current idjit, Rick Perry.

FISA court contradicts SCOTUS on our rights — in secret of course

On Tuesday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) declassified an opinion in which it explained why the government’s collection of records of all Americans’ phone calls is constitutional, and that if there is a problem with the program, it is a matter of political judgment, not constitutional law…

…The opinion does not even mention last year’s unanimous US supreme court decision on the fourth amendment and GPS tracking, a decision in which all three opinions include strong language that may render the NSA’s phone records collection program unconstitutional. No court that had been briefed by both sides would have ignored the grave constitutional issues raised by the three opinions of Justices Scalia, Sotomayor, and Alito in United States v Jones. And no opinion that fails to consider these should calm anyone down…

In Jones, the government attached a GPS device to a suspect’s car and tracked all the car’s movements for four weeks. The government argued that since the car was visible on public roads, and could have been tracked in the open by a police officer, no warrant was needed. Just like phone metadata, the car’s movements were not in private – they were on public roads. The lower court had already excluded evidence from when the car was parked in its private parking lot. All nine justices found the tracking unconstitutional, and each of the opinions offer strong reasons to reject the Fisa court’s interpretation of the fourth amendment with regards to phone metadata…

The most sophisticated opinion about how “big data” changes what courts must do to protect against state surveillance was authored by Sotomayor, who also provided the fifth vote for the court’s main opinion. Responding specifically to the claim that GPS tracking involved only non-private information from public travel, Sotomayor wrote that with today’s technology even observing these purely public movements “generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflect a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious and sexual associations”.

As though writing about the NSA program itself, Sotomayor continued…”Awareness that the government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms. And the government’s unrestrained power to assemble data that reveal private aspects of identity is susceptible to abuse…

…All the Jones opinions offer a very strong argument that the dramatically lower cost of pervasive, sustained surveillance of publicly observable data in bulk implicates the fourth amendment, and that whatever its statutory basis, this program may well violate that amendment. That the FISC opinion did not even mention Jones is as clear a sign as we have that without fundamental reform, Americans simply cannot rely on the Fisa court’s lopsided process to protect our rights.

Lawyers – especially constitutional lawyers – understand how a change in context, in all or part of a process, changes a precedent. For Obama to play “Let’s pretend” with protecting our constitutional rights is a puppet show designed to gloss over the fears of the clueless, prop up the backbone of politicians and pundits who only need the word “legal” in a lie to make it acceptable.

If Obama was only playing the opposition game when he opposed George W. Bush’s playing loose with our freedoms – then he’s just another opportunist hack. If his opposition was legit and, now, the arguments from the NSA/CIA/Pentagon-types have convinced him to accept this crap – then he’s lacking backbone as much as any ordinary Blue Dog Democrat. Either way – instead of providing leadership which BTW doesn’t burn money by the boatload in wasted hours and flunkyland snoop facilities – he’s settling in to the status quo and “change” means that’s what he does to get along with the thugs who really own this nation.