Archives for category: Freedom

One of our readers called Threatened Out West told us that schools cannot force students to participate in patriotic exercises, based on a court case from the 1940s. He/she was right.

TOW wrote:

“I know that it’s not quite the same situation, but is this even legal?

“Legally, schools CANNOT force students to stand or pledge. See West Virginia v. Barnette:

“So would this be the same for the National Anthem?”

This item appeared in Politico.

“KNEELING UNDER FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: As President Donald Trump has escalated a war with the NFL during the past week, student athletes may be tempted to also take a knee in protest on the football field tonight – and they have a constitutionally protected right to do so. Despite that, at least one school district has attempted to curb protests by threatening punishments ranging from extra running during practice to being kicked off the team, drawing the attention of the ACLU (and many people on Twitter and Facebook).

“- All high school principals in Bossier Parish in Louisiana are sending letters to student athletes and their families “making their expectations known as it pertains to proper decorum when the National Anthem is played at sporting events,” Sonja Bailes, a district spokeswoman, told Morning Education. Superintendent Scott Smith said in a statement: “In Bossier Parish, we believe when a student chooses to join and participate on a team, the players and coaches should stand when our National Anthem is played in a show of respect.” He added, “It is a choice for students to participate in extracurricular activities, not a right, and we at Bossier Schools feel strongly that our teams and organizations should stand in unity to honor our nation’s military and veterans.”

“- The directive was sent “in light of the national conversation currently taking place,” Smith said. Trump has been at war with the NFL, where players have chosen to kneel during the anthem – first to protest police brutality and racial injustice, and increasingly as a response to the president’s calls for them to be fired. Trump has said team owners should force players to stand for the anthem, and fire them if they don’t. We have the full story here.

“- The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that students “do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate” – and that extends to the football field, Frank LoMonte told Morning Education. LoMonte is the director of the University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information and the former director of the Student Press Law Center. School officials can only limit speech if it’s impeding the school’s ability to conduct business by causing a substantial disruption – something that would be very difficult to prove at a sporting event, he said.

“- “In a classroom, we expect everyone to stay silently in a seat, but in the stadium, there are people turning cartwheels and doing backflips on the sidelines, there are people waving banners and painting their faces, there are people getting up to buy hot dogs and talking on their cellphones,” LoMonte said. “In that atmosphere, it would be exceptionally challenging to say that a silent display of dissent is a substantial disruption.”

“- The principal of Parkway High School in Bossier Parish wrote in a letter that the school “requires student athletes to stand in a respectful manner” during the anthem, and that those who don’t comply could be kicked off the team. A picture of the letter was posted to Twitter by Shaun King of the Intercept and was retweeted thousands of times. Another district official told the Shreveport Times that potential punishments range from “extra running to a one-game suspension.” The school’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments, as well.

“- The ACLU of Louisiana issued a statement calling the Bossier Parish school officials’ threats to punish students who protest “antithetical to our values as Americans and a threat to students’ constitutional rights.” Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told Morning Education in an interview that “the Supreme Court has been very clear that schools, government officials, cannot suppress a student’s right to protest – even on a team, even during a game. To refuse to salute the flag, say the pledge, all of those thing – they are protected by the United States Constitution.”

Question: do students in schools have rights that athletes in pre-game ceremonies do not have?


Sound familiar?

Read it again.

Think about it.

Which side are you on?

Snopes says the poster was once available in the gift shop of the Holocaust Museum.

Snopes says:

The list was originally created by Laurence Britt in 2003, for an article published by Free Inquiry magazine (a publication for secular humanist commentary and analysis). While subsequent postings of the list often attribute it to “Dr. Laurence Britt,” the author said that he was not actually a doctor (nor did he claim to be). Britt himself said that he could be more accurately described as an amateur historian

It quotes this note about the poster:

Laurence W. Britt wrote about the common signs of fascism in April 2003, after researching seven fascists regimes. Those were Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Benito Mussolini’s Italy, Francisco Franco’s Spain, Antontio de Oliveira Salazar’s Portual, George Papadopoulos’s Greece, August Pinochet’s Chile, Mohamed Suharto’s Indonesia. These signs resonate with the political and economic direction of the United states under Bush/Cheney. Get involved in reversing this anti-democratic direction while you still can!

Nancy Bailey dedicates her post to the late, beloved Joan Kramer.

“On this 4th of July, when we celebrate America’s freedoms, it’s a perfect time to discuss our free public schools, and where we are with them when it comes to school reform. It’s important to understand that our public schools have a new threat, as I will explain below.

“Public schools, with all their faults, are the only truly democratic institution we own “together” as a country. Our public schools open their doors to all children.

“Teachers take on the challenge of working with the oppressed, the poor, immigrants, and even those with the most severe disabilities. Collectively, such care of our children will lead to the greater good of our country and the world.

“Local school boards, elected by the people, give all of us a voice as to how our schools are run. This is a democratic process threatened with extinction because of school privatization forces.

“If you don’t like what your public school is doing, you can go to the school board meeting and make your voice heard. If you don’t know how to help your public schools, you can sign up to be a volunteer.

“A public school not only reflects the community that surrounds it, it is an anchor to bring people together.

“Efforts for us to hold onto our public schools are in jeopardy today, and they have been in jeopardy for many years. Business has staked a claim on our public schools. There’s money to be made using our tax dollars.”

The inspirational leader Rev. William Barber 11 is stepping down from his post as chair of the North Carolina NAACP to launch a national movement.

His strong voice for moral strength, equal rights, dignity, courage in the face of adversity, and love is needed more than ever today.

The Los Angeles Times is publishing a series of editorials about Donald Trump. This is the first. It was published yesterday.

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

It is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man. Many Republicans, for instance, support tighter border security and a tougher response to illegal immigration, but Trump’s cockamamie border wall, his impracticable campaign promise to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally and his blithe disregard for the effect of such proposals on the U.S. relationship with Mexico turn a very bad policy into an appalling one.

In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits:

1. Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2. His utter lack of regard for truth. Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3. His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.

Where will this end? Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

Those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard.

On Inauguration Day, we wrote on this page that it was not yet time to declare a state of “wholesale panic” or to call for blanket “non-cooperation” with the Trump administration. Despite plenty of dispiriting signals, that is still our view. The role of the rational opposition is to stand up for the rule of law, the electoral process, the peaceful transfer of power and the role of institutions; we should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents. This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

PEN International represents artists and writers around the world. I am a member. It advocates for freedom of expression. It recently issued this condemnation of Trump’s travel ban.

It begins like this:

“The Trump Administration’s draconian immigration policies, from the Muslim ban to the deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers of hard-working parents who have no criminal record and young adults who know no other home, have drawn widespread criticism and protest.

“In addition to these heart-wrenching, horrifying stories, more and more reports are emerging of travelers—including U.S. citizens returning home—being subjected to aggressive interrogations at the border that leave them humiliated, angry, and bewildered. Several prominent writers have spoken out in recent weeks about such experiences, which have altered their views of the United States and what it stands for.

“The bestselling children’s book author Mem Fox, an Australian citizen, was detained in late February at the Los Angeles International Airport while en route to a conference in Milwaukee. She was detained for nearly two hours by Customs and Border Patrol officials who reportedly believed she was traveling on the wrong visa, although Fox says she has traveled to the U.S. over 100 times before without any incident. Her interrogation was so aggressive that she said she “felt like I had been physically assaulted.” Fox, whose most recent book I’m Australian, Too is a celebration of immigration and Australia’s multicultural heritage, eventually received an apology from the U.S. embassy in Australia. But in reflecting on her ordeal, she emphasized its broader ramifications, noting, “They made me feel like such a crushed, mashed, hopeless old lady and I am a feisty, strong, articulated English speaker. I kept thinking that if this were happening to me, a person who is white, articulate, educated, and fluent in English, what on earth is happening to people who don’t have my power?”

“Also in late February, Henry Rousso, a celebrated French historian of the Holocaust who was born and raised in Egypt, was detained for 10 hours at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Rousso, author of The Vichy Syndrome, about France’s struggle to reckon with its World War II history, was traveling to a symposium at Texas A&M University. Border officials questioned him about his visa and accused him of attempting to work illegally in the U.S. Rousso was first told that he would be deported, but was eventually released after Texas A&M learned of the situation and intervened. Like Mem Fox, Rousso’s experience has altered his view of the United States, as he wrote:

This incident has caused me some discomfort, but I cannot stop thinking of all those who suffer these humiliations and legal violence without the protections I was able to benefit from. …How can one explain this zeal if not by the concern to fulfill quotas and justify increased controls? That is the situation today in this country. We must now face arbitrariness and incompetence at all levels. I heard recently that “Paris isn’t Paris anymore.” The United States seems no longer quite the United States.

“Aaron Gach, an American media artist and founder of the Center for Tactical Magic, contacted PEN after he was detained on February 23 on his return home to San Francisco from an art show in Brussels. Gach was subjected to detailed questioning regarding an art exhibition in which he had participated in Belgium, including questions about why he was invited, who invited him, and how often he takes part in such exhibits. Gach’s pieces included in the exhibition focused on issues related to incarceration in the United States; he is unsure whether he was detained in connection with his work. Gach was repeatedly asked to allow CPB agents access to his personal phone by turning it over and providing his password; when he finally agreed, the phone was removed from his sight for several minutes before being returned to him.

“In the wake of reports like these and the expectation that a new travel ban will be issued at any moment, PEN America is hearing from artists, writers, poets, and other cultural and intellectual figures who are newly worried about making trips to the U.S., afraid of being turned away at the border, made to submit to invasive searches of their smartphones, interrogated about their political opinions and religious beliefs, or being subjected to arbitrary tests of their abilities. In a few short weeks, a pervasive fog of fear has encircled our borders, and it will deter countless people from even attempting to visit the country….”

Steve Nelson posted an obituary for the great, idealistic and progressive nation we strived to be, with periods of struggle and backsliding. Remember, America the Beautiful, “with liberty and justice for all?”

He rules the death a homicide.

He includes a list of seven organizations to which contributions may be sent in lieu of flowers.

I add: the Network for Public Education.

Teacher Ken Bernstein calls our attention to a farewell column written by Roger Simon of Politico.

Simon is retiring–at least for now–but he leaves with a warning.

“We live at a pivotal time because Donald Trump and his thugs have done us a favor. They have shown us that democracy is not inevitable. They have shown us it can fail.

“In just a matter of days, they have shown us how democracy can be transformed into something evil. And we can imagine a future of jackboots crashing through our doors at 2 a.m., trucks in the streets to take people to the internment camps, bright lights and barking dogs — and worse.

“Does this make me sound hysterical? Maybe. But this is my last chance to be. In its first week, the Trump administration demonstrated its contempt for Mexicans, for Muslims and for Jews. I imagine the true list is longer. Much longer.

“Should we keep quiet as we watch this? Is this why America was created?

“If, for amusement, you wish to pay attention to the opinion polls, do so. (Jimmy Kimmel said: “Hillary underperformed with women, African-Americans, Latinos and young people. The only group she did well with was pollsters.”)

“But the most important poll was created by Henry David Thoreau when he wrote, “any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one … ”

“You are a majority of one. You have a duty to act like it. You have a duty to do something to preserve democracy. Something nonviolent, I hope, but something.

“Trump tells civil rights leader John Lewis to keep his mouth shut and then Trump smiles his porcine smile. In what fantasy land, in what delusional world would one desire the words of a bellicose Donald Trump and the silence of John Lewis?…

“We are told today that truth no longer matters. It does.

“We are told human decency is the concern of the weak. It isn’t.

“We are told civil liberties can be brushed aside when it is convenient to the wielders of power to so do. Such people should be stopped. They must be stopped.

“And there is only the people to stop them.”

Ray Richmond is a writer in Los Angeles. This article appeared in the Los Angeles Times. I won’t reproduce it in full because that would violate copyright law. I hope you will open the article and read it. It expresses my own feelings of personal fear, fear for the future of my nation and my fellow citizens, fear for our democracy, and deep uneasiness about the future.

I never thought I’d have to write that I sense fear from my fellow citizens when it comes to speaking out against a presidential administration. But I do.

I never thought I’d have to write that our president is the biggest and most compulsive liar that I’ve ever encountered in American public life. But I must.

I never thought I’d have to write that the leader of the United States has the demeanor of a middle school-aged adolescent, with mature development arrested at age 13. But it’s true.

I never thought I’d have to write that my government has declared literal war against the truth, or that the president’s chief spokesperson would go on television and with a straight face and present the idea of “alternative facts.” But they have.

I never thought I’d have to write that my president is so insecure and consumed with the size of his support that he would personally phone the acting chief of the National Park Service to produce photographic evidence of a larger turnout at his inauguration. But he did…

I never thought I’d have to write that members of President Trump’s senior staff all were using a private Republican National Committee email server after having made Hillary Clinton’s doing so the centerpiece of the general election campaign. But it has.

I never thought I’d have to write that the winner of the presidential campaign is loudly and persistently making dubious claims of voter fraud despite having come out on top. But he does….

I never thought I’d have to write that an American president this week stood in front of the hallowed CIA Memorial Wall and made a self-aggrandizing speech about his own greatness and popularity, unable to see past his own narcissistic reflection. But he did.

I never thought I’d have to write that five members of the president’s inner circle, including two of his children, are registered to vote in two states. But they are.

I never thought I’d have to write that Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, has gone so far as to tell the New York Times, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. The media here is the opposition party.” But he did.

I never thought I’d have to write that the leader of the once-free world could consume himself with bad-mouthing movie stars and TV shows in tweets and all but declare war on information itself. But he does….

I never thought I’d have to write that waking up in the morning to the news — once an activity embraced with relish — so fills me with dread. But it does.

I never thought I’d have to write that going about the business of my daily life feels utterly empty and foreboding due to what appears to be the purposeful destruction of our hallowed institutions of democracy in real time. But it has.

I never thought I’d have to write that I feel helpless in the face of tyranny and autocratic rule from a man who believes himself at once omnipotent and infallible. But I do.

I never thought I’d have to write that I sense I’m a stranger in my own land. But I do.

GregB, a regular reader and commenter, left the following thoughts about the four years ahead of us:



“I commented on another site today about Al Franken that “it took a great comedian to show DC what a great senator looks like.” The perverse reality we live in today is amplified by the fact that comedians give us better news and analysis than “journalists.” Think of Jon Stewart and Jon Oliver as great examples. Tonight Samantha Bee had the best expose of hypocrisy of Kellyanne Conway and how “journalists” can’t cut through her bs. But her interview with exiled Russian dissident journalist (no quotes) Masha Gessen was amazing. Here’s a quick checklist of things that Gessen went through that Donald’s regime will likely do which mirrors Putin.


First pre-election speculation if Donald were to win:


— it feels like we’re staring into an abyss


Post election things to expect (most efforts to successfully resist that she knows of have failed and her biggest worry is a nuclear holocaust):

— he’s certain to do irreparable harm to the environment that will make the survival of the human species impossible,
— the impossibility of going on to democracy after Trump

(after Bee does a chart that shows what the path is to rock bottom, what low points do you expect to see in our near future?)

— he’s going to lift the sanctions against Russia
— he’s going to start banning one newspaper after the other from the White House
— he is going to start thinking about wars
— he is going to go to the Putin model of holding one press conference per year
— suppose some cities refuse to cooperate with deportation, so he calls on the American people to start reporting on immigrants, and that’s when we start getting into really disgusting territory
— that will be the beginning of the culture of citizen against citizen
— so there’s a Russian joke: We thought we had reached rock bottom and then someone knocked from below
— (in language) he’s very similar to Putin, he uses language to assert his power over reality
— what he’s saying is “I create the right to say whatever the hell I please and what are you going to do about it?”
— it’s instinctual, it’s like a bully in a playground
— the point is to render you completely powerless
— because everything you know how to do (to point out reality) is useless
— the thing to do to resist is to continue panicking, to keep being the hysteric in the room and say, “This is not normal”
— just remember why you’re panicking, write a note to yourself about what you would never do, and when you come to the line, don’t cross it


Thanks Samantha and Masha. It would have been good advice in Germany 1933 and seems apt for the US in 2017.