February 16, 2015
Je Suis Charlie Hebdo
by Ronald D. Rotunda
Censored SpeechFree speech is under renewed attack after the Charlie Hebdo murders that claimed 12 lives earlier this year. Around the world, some Muslims protested—not to defend the right of free speech but to attack those who, in their view, insulted Islam. For example, in late January, protestors killed five people and set fire to eight Christian Churches in Niger. French President Francois Hollande responded that France was committed to “freedom of expression,” and that commitment is “non-negotiable.”
A month before the Charlie Hebdo violence, a French appellate court overturned the conviction of Christine Tasin, a retired schoolteacher of Classics. In 2013, she had publicly criticized Islam’s Eid-ul-Adha (“Festival of the Sacrifice”), as unsanitary and cruel to animals. The trial court sentenced her to a €3,000 fine (half of which it suspended) and a three month prison sentence, also suspended. Earlier, a Muslim man threatened her with death. The court fined that man only €800. The judge apparently decided that objecting to cruelty to animals is five times more offensive than threatening a retired schoolteacher with death.
Tasin rejoiced in the overturning of her conviction. “Last Thursday was a great day for freedom of expression in France,” she said. She added:
The [appeal] court in Besançon has now acknowledged that one has the right to express opinions and I did not encourage hatred against Muslims, and I can think and say that Islam is a threat to France, that it is a freedom of expression. [Those who] fear that freedom of expression is disappearing, and that blasphemy has become a crime again are relieved. Yes, I am an Islamophobe, so what? It’s Normal! . . . I don’t find it normal to torture animals; I don’t find it normal to veil women. I’m talking about a serious problem.
Others take away a different lesson and encourage self-censorship—be careful what you say. On January 21, Stevie Wonder advised, “we should make laws against people criticizing religion,” a most in-apropos comment (it was part of his eulogy of André Crouch). In 2012, the President’s Press Secretary, Jay Carney, in the course of a press conference, said, “We are aware that a French magazine [referring to Charlie Hebdo] published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the prophet Muhammad, and obviously we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this.”
After the 2015 murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, Carney reaffirmed his view that Charlie Hebdo should have pulled back with its satire. Carney, of course, made clear that he did not justify violence. Yet, as Washington Post columnist Charles Lane advised, “mixed messages unavoidably implied that the rioters had a valid point, which is never something you want to imply—at least not if you understand how dangerous it is to give violent extremists a veto over what your citizens can and cannot say.”
Carney’s successor as White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, speaking shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack, embraced that mixed message. The violence is terrible, of course, yet, when a reporter asked Josh Earnest, “Does the White House stand by that questioning [in 2012] of the judgment of the publication of that cartoon in light of recent events?”—Earnest’s response was yes, after long, convoluted remarks. He reaffirmed that Charlie Hebdo exercised poor judgment; however, satire “could put Americans abroad at risk,” so the President “will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform.”
This response appeared to be a non sequitur so the reporter said that protecting “American service personnel is different than criticizing or raising questions about the judgment underlying any satirical expression, be it to mock Islam or Christianity or Judaism, or anything else.” Consequently, the reporter asked, “Where do you draw the line?” Earnest’s answer, “I think it depends on the scenario.” What does that mean? Don’t mock Islam but Episcopalians are fair game?
It is difficult for you to support free speech if you simultaneously express reservations about what the speaker is saying and then warn that you will “not now be shy” about “taking steps” to discourage the speaker from speaking because that is exercising “poor judgment.”
Jonathan Chait, a commentator for New York Magazine and former senior editor at the New Republic, saw right through this decidedly ambiguous message. What the White House Press Secretary is saying, Chait says, is, “They do not believe religious extremists should be able to impose censorship by issuing threats, but given the existence of those threats, the rest of us should have the good sense not to risk triggering them.” That is not a defense of free speech but rather a call for self-censorship:
“The line separating these two positions is perilously thin. . . . The right to blaspheme religion is one of the most elemental exercises of political liberalism. One cannot defend the right without defending the practice.”
The Washington Post republished the Charlie Hebdo cartoon cover circulated after the attack, but the New York Times did not, noting, “most Muslims consider any depiction of their prophet to be blasphemous.” That certainly appears like self-censorship. (It also shows that the editor of that article does not travel much, at least not to Istanbul, where one could tour the famous Topkapi Palace Museum, which displays many images of Mohammed. That’s another problem with self-censorship; it leads to over-self-censorship, if you are scared enough.)
In December 2004, I gave a speech at the University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands about America and the Gulf War. A month earlier, a 26-year-old Dutch-born Muslim murdered Theo van Gogh, while cycling to work. My speech was public and a Muslim woman spoke up in the back of the room before I began. She was accompanied by several large men and videotaping equipment. She wanted to videotape my speech. I asked the audience if they objected and they did. The audience was obviously scared and I asked her if she had any reaction to that. She refused to speak.
I told her that the audience was scared of her because of the murder of Theo van Gogh and that ought to concern her. She just stared at me in utter silence. I said she could condemn the murder of Theo van Gogh; that might make the audience less frightened. Again, nothing. I finally told her that she could videotape me but the camera must focus only on me. She could not make any record of anyone in the audience. She agreed, and the audience felt better. Then I began my speech by saying that it is important that we not be afraid to speak. After I finished the presentation and answered questions, she and her entourage left. At that moment, I did not need the White House Press Secretary to tell me to exercise “better judgment,” i.e., self-censorship.
Each generation must learn and relearn the lessons of free speech. Those who say we can speak, but should not be rude or offensive do not understand that inoffensive speech has no need of protection. The White House Press Secretary should not be telling us to censor ourselves; he should be telling the world that the cure for speech we do not like is more speech, contrary speech, not violence or self-censorship. If you disagree, respond with words, not force.
Those who worry about inciting those Muslims who preach and act out hate think that appeasement will stop the terrorist attacks. Sadly, appeasement in the past has been about as effective as throwing some blood in the water to appease sharks.
Listen to an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in 2009, on Egyptian Television. He told his viewers:
If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the earth.
The Quran tells us that if God had wanted one community, He would have made one community. Instead, we are many communities so that we can compete with each other in good works (Quran verse 5:480). The murderers of Charlie Hebdo worry about sacrilege, but they are the ones who are sacrilegious, because they actually think that Almighty God needs those puny men to effectuate His will.
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In another devastating blow to freedom, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police don’t need a warrant to search your property. As long as two occupants disagree about allowing officers to enter, and the resident who refuses access is then arrested, police may enter the residence.
“Instead of adhering to the warrant requirement,” Ginsburg wrote, “today’s decision tells the police they may dodge it, nevermind ample time to secure the approval of a neutral magistrate.” Tuesday’s ruling, she added, “shrinks to petite size our holding in Georgia v. Randolph.”
Georgia v. Randolph was a similar case the Supreme Court addressed in 2006, in which a domestic violence suspect would not allow police to enter his home, though his wife did offer police consent. The police ultimately entered the home. The Court ruled in the case that the man’s refusal while being present in the home should have kept authorities from entering.
“A physically present inhabitant’s express refusal of consent to a police search [of his home] is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant,” the majority ruled in that case.
The majority, led by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said police need not take the time to get a magistrate’s approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches. The court had previously held that such protections were at the “very core” of the 4th Amendment and its ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, reports the LA Times.
According to the AP, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court’s 6-3 decision holding that an occupant may not object to a search when he is not at home.
“We therefore hold that an occupant who is absent due to a lawful detention or arrest stands in the same shoes as an occupant who is absent for any other reason,” Alito said.
Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/supr…
Sunday, 12 October 2014
IRISH – ‘THE FORGOTTEN WHITE SLAVES’ claims expert The Irish slave trade began when the Proclamation of 1625 James II required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70 percent of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.” “Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants and the majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.”
“During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”
Martin goes on to explain that for some reason, the Irish slaves are often remembered as ‘indentured servants.’ However, in most cases during the 17th and 18th centuries, they were no more than “human cattle.”
“…the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period,” writes Martin. “It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.”
During the late 1600s, writes Martin, African slaves were far more expensive than their Irish counterparts – Africans would sell for around 50 sterling while Irish were often no more than 5 sterling.
The Irish were further exploited when the British began to “breed” Irish women – or girls, sometimes as young as 12 – with African males.
“These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of breeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.
Next to a DNA match, many people probably think that eyewitness identification is most persuasive. Yet, this persuasive evidence is often wrong. It is not wrong because witnesses lie, although some of them may. It is wrong because our memories play tricks with us. The recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, illustrates the problem. We know that a police officer, Darren Wilson, killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old black man. Wilson said it was self-defense but other witnesses contradicted him. Because the police officer is white and the deceased black, the tragedy was the occasion for many comments about racism. Yet, this episode also illustrates the problems with eyewitness identification.
Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County Prosecutor, used the grand jury to investigate the incident to determine if the tragedy was a crime. Did Officer Wilson have the “reasonable belief” that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself? McCulloch released the grand jury testimony, and when he did so he warned us of the dangers of eyewitness identification.
Many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown made statements inconsistent with other statements they made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence.
As an example, before the results of the private autopsy were released, witnesses on social media during interviews with the media and even during questioning by law enforcement claimed that they saw Officer Wilson stand over Michael Brown and fire many rounds into his back.
Others claim that Officer Wilson shot Mr. Brown in the back as Mr. Brown was running away. However once the autopsy findings were released showing that Michael Brown had not sustained any wound to the back of his body. No additional witnesses made such a claim. And several witnesses adjusted their stories in subsequent statements.
Some even admitted that they did not witness the event at all but merely repeated what they heard in the neighborhood or others or assumed had happened. Fortunately, for the integrity of our investigation, almost all initial witness interviews including those of Officer Wilson were reported.
Was Brown running away from Office Wilson, charging towards him, or staggering? For example, one witness said, “I thought he was trying to charge him at first because the only thing I kept saying was is he crazy?” In contrast, another witness testified, “I didn’t get the impression of a charge because it wasn’t fast enough to be a charge.”
While eyewitness accounts varied, that was not the case with the two two autopsy reports provided to jurors. St. Louis County performed one autopsy and Michael Baden, a nationally known forensic pathologist, performed the other, at the family’s request. Both concluded that Mr. Brown was shot in the head, face, chest area and arms; he was not shot in the back.
Empirical evidence supports the conclusion that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. One study examined eyewitnesses who were intoxicated. One group had a .04 blood alcohol concentration for one group; the second had .07-alcohol concentration; the third group, the control group, was alcohol-free. The typical blood alcohol-driving limit in the United States is .08, so the second group was barely able to drive legally. The experimenters showed each group a staged kidnapping. One week later, the study asked everyone to pick out the kidnappers out of a line-up. All three groups performed about the same, which was slightly better than chance. There were no significant effects of alcohol intoxication with respect to performance. I bet you did not see that coming. It gets worse.
In the more than 250 convictions overturned because of DNA evidence, 73 percent involved cases where the error was attributable to misidentifications by eyewitnesses. In criminal cases, 38 percent of the exonerations involving mistaken identify included multiple eyewitnesses. Exonerations show that misidentification is involved in 27 percent of homicides but in 80 percent of sexual assault cases. That should not be surprising, because experts tell us that memories that are emotionally negative have greater potentiality to be flawed.
The Report by the National Registry of Exonerations concluded that that there were 873 exonerations, entered in the Registry as of March 1, 2012. Of this group, DNA evidence helped exonerate 37 percent; 63 percent were exonerated without the use of DNA. Since 2000, exonerations have averaged 52 a year, or one a week, and 40 percent of them include DNA evidence. The most common causal factors that contributed to the exonerations are (1) perjury or false accusation (51 percent), (2) mistaken eyewitness identification (43 percent), (3) official misconduct (42 percent), (4) false or misleading forensic evidence (24 percent), and (5) false confession (16 percent). As of December 9, 2014, the National Registry reported 1,490 exonerations.
Some courts are starting to take notice. In 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court considered the case of a criminal defendant who seeks to exclude eyewitness identification evidence in a pretrial motion. If the defendant argues that the witness lacks personal knowledge, the opposing side “must offer evidence showing both that the witness had an adequate opportunity to observe or otherwise personally perceive the facts to which the witness will testify, and did, in fact, observe or perceive them, thereby gaining personal knowledge of the facts.”
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) [full disclosure, I have written and filed pro bono briefs for the NACDL] has encouraged the use of “double-blind” lineups. Double-blind tests are routine in the sciences but not in line-ups. With a double-blind sequential lineup procedure, the police show the suspects, one by one, to the witness. That reduces the possibility of a witness picking the person who looks most like the culprit even if that person is not the culprit. Moreover, the “double-blind” procedure means that the police officer who conducts the procedure does not know the identity of the suspect. That prevents the officer from (unconsciously or consciously) providing visual cues to the witness.
In October 2014, the National Research Council of the Academy of Sciences published a report evaluating eyewitness identification. The authors were—and this is a mouthful—the Committee on Scientific Approaches to Understanding and Maximizing the Validity and Reliability of Eyewitness Identification in Law Enforcement and the Courts; Committee on Science, Technology, and Law; Policy and Global Affairs; Committee on Law and Justice; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council. The Report warns us many factors compromise our memory, from the time we initially process the event to the time later when we retrieve it. “Unknown to the individual, memories are forgotten, reconstructed, updated, and distorted.” The Report also recommends adopting “blinded” eyewitness identification procedures.
Police, prosecutors, victims, and the public are all interested in apprehending the guilty. However, a wrongful conviction does nothing to deter wrongful conduct because the wrong person is found guilty. If anything, it can encourage wrongful conduct because the guilty person is still loose. That guilty person still on the loose is the only party with an interest in not improving eyewitness identification
by Ronald D. Rotunda