Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Will Speaking at Auburn University on Wednesday

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

This Wednesday, November 16, FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley will be speaking at an event hosted by the Young Americans for Liberty at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Unlearning Liberty
7:30 p.m. CST
Auburn University Student Center, Room 2225
Sponsored by the Young Americans for Liberty at Auburn University

Will's speech will discuss how students today are all too often working to censor their peers on campus, and how they can combat this trend. FIRE supporters in the area are encouraged to attend! To invite a FIRE speaker to your campus, visit FIRE's Speakers Bureau page.

Video From Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park Standoff

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

This morning, we took a moment to capture a bit of the action at Zuccotti Park in the wake of the late night, NYPD eviction of the encampment that had lasted almost two months.

Here, a participant in the Occupy Wall Street movement talks about the judge’s restraining order stating protestors must be allowed entrance to Zuccotti Park (pending a hearing), and the NYPD’s non-compliance:

Activists sing “We Shall Not Be Moved” while linking arms around the park:

Demonstrators took to using the “human microphone” call-and-response to read aloud the text of the temporary restraining order granting them access to Zuccotti Park, as the NYPD stood by in silence:


The Washington Post Tells the Tale of Two Occupy Cartoonists

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Two weeks ago, cartoonist Susie Cagle was arrested during a night of violence that marred the Occupy Oakland protests. Despite wearing a press badge and participating peacefully, Cagle and several other nonviolent protesters were taken in for failure to leave the scene of a riot.

Michael Cavna with The Washington Post recently examined Cagle’s work in his blog, Comic Riffs, and compared it to the work of cartoonist Nate Beeler. Both cartoonists are situated in the middle of the action — Cagle in Oakland and Beeler at Occupy D.C. And both have divergent takes on the events taking place:

From his drawing board, Nate Beeler can survey it all. The block-lettered signs and dirt-caked tents, the makeshift meals and ever-present drums. The political cartoonist sits perched in the K Street NW newsroom of the Washington Examiner, on the block neatly overlooking the Occupy D.C. encampment. As the protestors go through their rhythms established from six weeks of autumn squatting, Beeler — amused — can’t help but smirk.

On the opposite coast, in the middle of Occupy Oakland, another talented young cartoonist, Susie Cagle, finds her city’s scene engrossing. So much so that she decides to draw closer, ...

University of Denver AAUP Echoes Call to Restore Academic Freedom to DU

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

In a letter to the University of Denver's provost and president on November 12, 17 members of the University of Denver chapter of the American Association of University Professors (DU AAUP) echoed FIRE's concern for academic freedom in the case of DU professor Arthur Gilbert, whom DU found guilty of sexual harassment for relevant classroom comments that apparently were never investigated from an academic perspective.

That's really important: context matters a huge amount. There are a lot of things you can and should say in a class about moral taboos that probably have no reason to come up in, say, your calculus class, or in a faculty meeting about wages and benefits. But that never stopped DU from treating Gilbert's classroom like, say, a factory floor or an office supply company in Scranton.

DU AAUP's letter, sent by Chapter President Dean Saitta, reads as follows:

We, the undersigned members of DU's AAUP chapter, urge you to vacate the decision finding Professor Arthur Gilbert guilty of sexual harassment as recommended by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in its letter to Chancellor Coombe of November 4, 2011.

When the Gilbert story broke last spring our chapter quickly went on ...

EFF Mourns the Passing of Ilya Zhitomirskiy

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

EFF mourns the passing of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of the Diaspora* project. His role at Diaspora*, a social network designed to preserve users' freedom, was just one of many expressions of his belief that a free and open Internet can improve people's lives. Ilya was a friend to the EFF community, and a consistent supporter of its goals; we will miss his passion, his dedication, and his enthusiasm.

The DAA’s Self-Regulatory Principles Fall Far Short of Do Not Track

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Last week, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), as association of 6 online advertising groups1, published a set of Self-Regulatory Principles for Multi-Site Data. These principles are designed to cover data collection above and beyond the standards the group adopted for behavioral advertising. These principles are a mixed bag.  Even while the new standards offer the potential to improve transparency and user choice in some instances, the language of the standards is loose enough to allow many of the concerning practices to continue unabated.2 And, as is often the case with self-regulatory models, the DAA’s new standards won’t be enforced. Companies that violate the principles suffer no consequences.

Regulation of online tracking has been long-debated by industry figures and privacy advocates. At the core of the debate is how to strike a balance between users’ rights to protect their privacy when browsing the web and the needs of companies to implement new online services without burdensome government regulation. Thoughtful self-regulation has been heavily promoted by the advertising industry, and last Monday’s announcement is likely an attempt to obviate possible governmental regulation. This is no surprise; Congress has introduced several bills that could regulate the collection of online ...

MTV GEEK Supports CBLDF With Original Art Auction

Monday, November 14th, 2011

During New York-Comic-Con, MTV Geek held a private party for staff and contributors. In attendance were some of the biggest names in comics, many of whom created live art to benefit CBLDF. Now you have the chance to own some of that art!

Creators who joined MTV Geek at the party included Jim Lee (Justice League), Todd McFarlane (Spawn), Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman), Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time), Brad Neely (China, IL), Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), Paul Pope (Batman: Year 100), Jon Schnepp (Metalocalypse), Steve Ellis (High Moon), and more. While enjoying music from DJ Aub Driver (Dark Horse Comics), several joined the massive live art session. The art created during the party is now being auctioned to benefit CBLDF. You can bid on the art here.

“Many thanks go to Bradley Hatfield, Chris Moeser, and Tom Akel with MTV Geek for organizing the event and lending their support to CBLDF,” said CBLDF Development Manager Alex Cox. “MTV Geek has been a terrific supporter of the Fund since they launched, and with this event they brought in some amazing talent. The art produced ...

Former FIRE Intern in ‘Brown Daily Herald’: New President Must Respect Individual Rights

Monday, November 14th, 2011

In today's Brown Daily Herald (Brown University's student newspaper), Campus Freedom Network member and 2011 FIRE intern Oliver Rosenbloom pens an apt and well-written column outlining the importance of keeping students' individual rights and due process issues in mind as Brown seeks a new university president.

As Oliver points out, Brown's embrace of due process has been tenuous at best and, at worst, outright nonexistent. Indeed, according to FIRE's recently issued Standard of Evidence Survey, Brown's policies employ a "reasonable basis" evidentiary standard for judiciary proceedings. Whatever that is, it's almost certainly lower even than the recent "preponderance of the evidence" mandate from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). As FIRE's Adam Kissel pointed out in a New York Times article from last year, "It's almost as if guilty when charged is the policy, instead of innocent until proven guilty."

Oliver writes:

To guarantee the fair administration of justice at Brown, a new president will have to take two steps: Change current campus policies that undermine due process, and ensure that University officials respect due process as they investigate criminal actions.

Oliver also points out the culture of censorship on Brown's campus and lays out some ...

Members-Only Speakeasy: Chicago

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Join Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Julie Samuels for drinks next Monday, November 21st in Chicago! Discover EFF's latest work in intellectual property from our resident patent expert, and learn more about the continuing fight to defend your freedom online.

EFF's Speakeasy events are free, informal gatherings that give you a chance to mingle with local members and meet the people behind the world's leading digital civil liberties organization. It is also our chance to thank you, the EFF members who make this work possible.

Speakeasy: Chicago
EFF Members-Only Happy Hour
Monday, November 21, 2011 from 6-8 PM

If you are a current EFF member accepting email, you will find a personal invitation with location details in your inbox today! Space is limited, so reserve your spot. If you are traveling through Chicago next week and would like to join in, contact membership@eff.orgfor more information.

Not a member yet? You can join today!

FIRE CLE Course to be Offered in Philadelphia on December 14

Monday, November 14th, 2011

FIRE is pleased to announce that our latest Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course will be offered to attorneys in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, December 14, in Philadelphia. Our CLE, titled "Free Speech 101: Protecting Free Expression and the First Amendment at our Nation's Colleges and Universities," will take place at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park in Philadelphia from 2 to 4 p.m.

As in our previous continuing legal education courses, we will provide an in-depth examination of the state of the law on freedom of speech on today's college campus and will give attorneys a greater understanding of the ways litigation can be utilized to protect the rights of university students and faculty as well as how they can become involved in such efforts. Our course has been approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for two hours of substantive law, practice, and procedure CLE credit. The course is appropriate for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys. Registration costs $40, and financial aid is available. Members of FIRE's Legal Network may attend free of charge.

For more information about the course and to register online, see our CLE page or click below.

Register for Free Speech 101: Protecting Free Expression at our  Nation's Colleges in Philadelphia, PA  on Eventbrite

As our CLE page states:

The course ...

Federal Court: School Can Ban American Flag Shirts On Cinco De Mayo

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

A federal court judge ruled that officials at a California high school had a legal right to send home students wearing shirts showing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo because there was a reasonable fear that the images could lead to violence.

Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware of San Francisco ruled last week that it was not a violation of the freedom of speech for students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill to be ordered to turn their shirts with the American flag inside out or go home on May 5, 2010, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.Two students were sent home.

Ware cited past clashes between Mexican-American and Anglo students over clothing on the holiday, which is a celebration of Mexican heritage and in Mexico commemorates a Mexican army victory over the French in 1862. (It is not Mexican Independence Day.)

Students wearing the shirts had sued the Morgan Hill Unified School District on the grounds that their right to free expression had been violated as well as on discrimination because students wearing Mexican flag colors were not censored. Ware rejected both issues.

Read the full article at the

The Good Fighters: Jason Gonzalez

Friday, November 11th, 2011

One way to describe Jason Gonzalez, a.k.a J.Gonzo, is sharp. From the bold lines and colors of his designs and tattoos to the quick-witted ease with which he converses, Gonzalez is also an enthusiastic fan and creator of comic books, including his self-published opus to luchadores, La Mano Del Destino. His stories and artwork are steeped in tradition, from his Chicano background, to his embrace of the mythological hero’s quest, and finally to his love for the vintage imagery that once populated advertising.

Gonzalez is also a dedicated supporter of CBLDF, as you’ll see in this episode of The Good Fighters.

CBLDF: You wear a lot of different hats — graphic designer, tattoo artist, comic book creator. Which one is your favorite?

Jason Gonzalez: I think I like being a comic book creator the most of all the things that I do, mostly because the purest form of what I want done gets done. I’m only limited by my ability to execute and not by other people’s opinions. It’s not that I’m not up to other input on my comic, but if you work in graphic design especially, there are a lot of people who think ...

DePaul University’s Double Standard

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Student newspaper The DePaulia ran a student opinion piece on November 8 calling out DePaul University for its double standard regarding freedom of association. The piece by Ernie Enriquez explains that DePaul refuses to give equal treatment to Students for Cannabis Policy Reform (SCPR) simply because of the views the unrecognized student group is promoting. Enriquez quotes SCRP president Jeff Kramer:

This school has an LGBT club, which is a great thing, but it demonstrates that their "Catholic" values have little to do with similar minded people assembling on their grounds. No, this was purely political.

Indeed, as a private university, DePaul would be free to enforce whatever it thinks Catholicism means, were it to advertise itself as a university that censors and punishes heresy. It may not, however, advertise itself as a university dedicated to free speech but then violate its own promises. And this is exactly what it has done. That's why, as Enriquez notes,

Last spring, a Huffington Post article [written by FIRE's Greg Lukianoff] ranked DePaul as one of the worst colleges for freedom of speech on campus.

Enriquez concludes:

It's time to re-evaluate where DePaul's freedom of speech lies in relation to its Catholic and Vincentian values.

That's what ...

This Week in FIRE News

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Happy Veterans Day, and happy 11/11/11!

Fall is a habitually busy time for FIRE, and this season has been no exception. In addition to taking on specific free speech, due process, and religious liberty cases at colleges across the country, FIRE has also been working diligently to make sure students and faculty are armed with the resources necessary to keep their rights intact.

Fresh off the heels of the release of our survey of the standards of evidence employed by the nation's top 100 colleges and universities, on Wednesday we released our Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus for 2012, following censorship policies at Grambling State University and other colleges. This is good timing, as in the wake of election season, college students and faculty across the nation should be aware of their right to engage in political speech on campus.

For a recap of where other FIRE cases and issues made headlines this week, please see the following:

Hollywood’s New War on Software Freedom and Internet Innovation

Friday, November 11th, 2011

This is the third in our series (Part 1, Part 2) breaking down the potential effects of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), an outrageous and grievously misguided bill now working its way through the House of Representatives. This post discusses dangerous software censorship provisions that are new in this bill, as well as the DNS censorship provisions it inherited from the Senate's COICA and PIPA bills. Please help us fight this misguided legislation by contacting Congress today.

In this new bill, Hollywood has expanded its censorship ambitions. No longer content to just blacklist entries in the Domain Name System, this version targets software developers and distributors as well. It allows the Attorney General (doing Hollywood or trademark holders' bidding) to go after more or less anyone who provides or offers a product or service that could be used to get around DNS blacklisting orders. This language is clearly aimed at Mozilla, which took a principled stand in refusing to assist the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to censor the domain name system, but we are also concerned that it could affect the open source community, internet innovation, and software freedom more broadly:

  • Do ...

Emory Students Speak out Against Proposed ‘Free Expression Zone’ Policy

Friday, November 11th, 2011

On Wednesday I gave Emory University a shellacking over a proposed "free expression zone" policy, which was hailed in The Emory Wheel as a step forward by Emory's student government president and a number of Emory administrators. As I wrote, the fact that such initiatives on supposedly free liberal arts campuses are so positively received does far more to show how far our tolerance for free speech has plummeted rather than grown, seeing the extent to which students are willing to censor themselves today.

Fortunately, I'm not alone. Today in the Wheel, Emory graduate student Andy Ratto expresses similar sentiments, saying that "Emory should be committed to fostering open and free speech throughout the entire campus, not sequestering it into one small area." The Wheel's editorial board comes out in favor of free speech as well, stating its worry that "the concept of designating a specific area as a free expression zone seems to imply that other locations on campus are not," and advocating that if the policy goes forward, "the area ought to be promoted as an additional space, not the designated space." Be sure to read their full pieces at The Emory Wheel.

EFF Asks Supreme Court to End the FCC’s Indecency Regulations

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Yesterday, EFF—along with the Cato Institute, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Public Knowledge, and TechFreedom—submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in FCC v. Fox, which asks the Court to declare unconstitutional the FCC’s heavy-handed and outdated indecency policy for broadcast TV.  The policy stems from the 1978 Supreme Court decision in FCC v. Pacifica, also known as the “Seven Dirty Words” case. The Court held that broadcast media deserved lesser First Amendment protection than other mediums because it had a “uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans” and was “uniquely accessible to children.”

But as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals noted, “we face a media landscape that would have been almost unrecognizable in 1978.” Back then, the public could consume media in two ways: through broadcast television and radio or newspapers.  Now, over three-quarters of all Americans use the Internet, and 87% of households now subscribe to cable or satellite.

Nor is broadcast media “uniquely accessible to children” either. Upwards of 87% of U.S. children ages 12 to 17 use the Internet.  And as our brief notes, “when children watch broadcast content, they do so increasingly using non-broadcast ...

Happy Veterans Day from FIRE

Friday, November 11th, 2011
FIRE wishes you a happy Veterans Day, on which we remember those who have served to keep us free. For a history of Veterans Day, check out this piece from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Canada’s Comics Legends Legal Defense Fund Formally Incorporates

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Press Release

CLLDF Incorporates, Gains New Directors

The Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund announces that, 22 years after forming as an ad hoc fundraising organization in defense of a Calgary retailer charged with selling obscene materials, it has at last been formally incorporated. CLLDF Board of Directors member Derek McCulloch says, “It’s a long overdue step, and one we hope communicates our intention to grow the Fund as a bulwark in the defense of free speech in Canada.” McCulloch added that while the Fund has been incorporated with bylaws outlining its mission as a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the free speech rights of Canadian comics professionals and fans, its status as a charity is pending. “The paperwork is in at Revenue Canada,” McCulloch said. “We hope to have charitable status before the end of the year.”

The move toward formal incorporation comes in the wake of the CLLDF’s involvement, in partnership with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, in the defense of an American citizen facing criminal charges in Canada for comics brought into the country on his laptop.

At the same time, the CLLDF announces that it has expanded its Board of Directors from three members ...

Susie Cagle Talks to Comics Alliance About Her Arrest

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Last week, cartoonist Susie Cagle was arrested during the latest round of violence that has marred the Occupy Oakland protests. Laura Hudson with Comics Alliance interviewed Cagle about the arrest.

Cagle describes the moment the police came to arrest her, along with several other demonstrators:

I found this doorway, and there were tons of people crammed in there — maybe 20 or 30. Many of them had the bright green National Lawyers Guild legal observer hats, and I thought, that is a good place to be. So I ran in there and we all put our hands up thinking this should be all right. We’re away from the action, clearly peaceful, and I have my press badge around my neck. The police come up to the doorway and are basically about to beat us, and we have to scream, “No, no, please please.” About 20 seconds later, they said, “Everyone get on the ground, you’re under arrest.”

Read the rest of Cagle’s interview here.

Register for Nov. 15 “Religion and Libraries” webinar!

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Article 19 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights affirms that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article 18 of the Declaration affirms that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion of belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Librarians and others in the U.S. and around the world have found that in practice, these two pillars have sometimes led to dilemmas, as users and stakeholders with competing values and interests have pressed their claims with libraries and other institutions.

In order to explore these issues, for the second session in our “Intellectual Freedom across the Globe” webinar series, OIF and IFLA FAIFE are excited to present “Religion, Free Expression, and Libraries.”   This one-hour discussion will cover a variety of intriguing issues — including blasphemy laws, collection development & donations to libraries, and library meeting rooms — and ...

REMINDER: Registration For Webinar on Comics & Manga Censorship Closes Today!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Throughout November, the American Library Association presents “Intellectual Freedom Across the Globe,” a series of online learning opportunities focused on intellectual freedom issues. CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein will be participating on November 9, during a webinar on comics and manga censorship around the globe, and you can join in!

More details in the official press release:

Access to comic books, graphic novels, and manga is an increasingly hot topic in the library, creative, and free speech communities.  For libraries and other distributors, there are issues of why and how to collect and make available these materials, and how to handle challenges (including legal and policy challenges).  Creators need to know what support is out there if their materials are under attack, and how these attacks manifest themselves.  Free speech advocates are interested in how their support of basic principles of access to information applies to these materials.

To kick off our “Intellectual Freedom across the Globe” webinar series, OIF and IFLA FAIFE are pleased to present “Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga, and Libraries,” a one-hour look at how censorship affects comics around the world.  This webinar will discuss the history of comic book censorship, and highlight ...

MIX Raises Over $2,100 For CBLDF!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Last weekend, the Minneapolis art comics community welcomed some of the country’s finest cartoonists for MIX, the Minneapolis Indie Xpo. Show organizer Sarah Morean and her volunteer team provided a generous platform for the Fund, helping the organization raise over $2,100 at the event.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein represented the organization with the assistance of local cartoonists George Folz and Carl Thompson. On Sunday afternoon he delivered Censorship Then & Now, the CBLDF’s history of comics censorship, to a full house that included the Fund’s co-founder Greg Ketter.

Held at local arts space The Soap Factory, MIX provided a small festival environment where nationally recognized cartoonists shared the stage with local talent. The show was free to the public, and attracted a diverse crowd that ranged from loyal comics fans to curious readers who came to the show through buzz in the local press. The exhibit floor provided a solid survey of the current art comics climate, and included debuts from Zak Sally, Ursula Murray Husted, Noah van Sciver, and others. Tom Neely, Kevin Huizenga, Julia Wertz, Sarah Glidden, Jon Lewis, Dustin Harbin, and Robert Kirby, were also ...

Jobs Relief for Disabled and Unemployed Veterans: Who Could Object?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

This morning, I was pleased to be able to attend an event at the White House where President Obama announced plans to move legislation to encourage employers to hire disabled and unemployed veterans by making tax credits available to the employers when they hire these veterans. The President urged Congress to put aside the obstruction that led to the Republican filibuster of the American Jobs Act and several of its component parts (e.g. funds to provide for the hiring of teachers and first responders and funds to put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work repairing our crumbling bridges, roads and other infrastructure), and instead to pass this piece of the American Jobs Act.

Prospects for passage of the veterans jobs bill look rosier than previous votes, perhaps because even the Republican obstructionists in Congress will have to admit, that, as President Obama said, it's time for Congress to "put country before party." It is long past time for the obstructionists in Congress to step aside and let America work for the American people.

First Amendment Rodeo 10/19-11/06, 2011

Monday, November 7th, 2011

A round-up of intellectual freedom issues in the news

Censorship/Book Banning
Off-color book stirs debate at Old Rochester junior high
See also:

ACLU puts legal pressure on districts to open filters on LGBT material
It’s all blocked: The real story behind the Internet at DHS
China Reins In Entertainment and Blogging
Mind/Shift: When School Web Filtering Comes Home

Freedom of Speech/Expression
Musical About Homosexuality And Prejudice Stirs Range Of Student Reactions
Artistic Judgment: How the Supreme Court Will Soon Decide How Much Access We Have to Art

Verizon to Share User Location Data, Browsing History With Marketers
Wyden says privacy laws need changes
FBI Going to Court More Often to get Personal Internet-usage Data
Get a warrant: Congress must act to protect privacy in digital age
Google: Governments seek more about you than ever
Technology: A bipartisan attempt to regulate the Internet?
Survey: Many parents help kids lie to get on Facebook
See also:

Keeping Up With the Joneses—How Far Does the ‘Reasonable Expectation of Privacy’ Go?

Patriot Act

Cartoonist Arrested During Occupy Oakland Protests

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Despite wearing a press pass and being recognized by one of her arresting officers, cartoonist and journalist Susie Cagle was arrested last week, during the latest round of violence that has marred the Occupy Oakland protests. Cagle wrote about her experience on her blog:

I was detained for 15 hours and ultimately charged with the same misdemeanor as other demonstrators and NLG legal observers: PC 409, failure to leave the scene of a riot. Our arraignment dates are a month from now, and we were explicitly warned against returning to the plaza in the meantime. As I told ABC7, I feel like the OPD does, I think: confused.

Cagle also took video of her attempt to run to safety and subsequent arrest. You can also view the video on her blog.

In her Friday blog post, Cagle further noted that OPD interim police chief Howard Jordan described most of the people arrested as “generally anarchists and provocateurs” and that several other journalists have been arrested during Occupy protests, but she doesn’t know if they were charged with a crime.

Over the weekend, Cagle wrote a lengthy article about her experience for AlterNet. In the article, ...

Houston Newspaper Retracts Endorsement Over Homophobic Flier

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle retracted its endorsement of a school board incumbent over a last-minute campaign flier dripping with homophobia.

A last-minute campaign flier for Rodriguez displays appalling homophobia. The flier urges recipients not just to vote for Rodriguez, but to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because he has been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Caucus, "the South's oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights." The flier further states that Fonseca has "spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights ... not kids," and winds up with a pair of bullet points noting that he's 54 years old with no children and has a male partner.

That's obvious gay-bashing, of the kind that HISD rightly prohibits on the playground. It has no place on HISD's board.

Not only did the Chronicle repudiate Manuel Rodriguez's efforts to stir up animus against gays and lesbians, it also pointed out a truth that the Right Wing desperately wants to hide:

Advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights is advocating for kids. GLBT kids are among those who most need adult protection and support.


Members of the ...

Helping Voters Exercise Their Right Must Be Fraud

Friday, November 4th, 2011

A report in the Wall Street Journal detailing the Obama campaign’s plan to help eligible voters navigate the onslaught of voter suppression measures being implemented in states around the country can only mean one thing to Fox guest Chris Plante: helping eligible voters actually cast a ballot is the same thing as seeking to commit voter fraud.

“They want to engage in voter fraud, of course. What other possible answer could there be?...This is about corruption, plain and simple.”

If the GOP’s war on voting needs a spokesman, Chris Plante is up to the task.

[HT Media Matters]

A Triumph in Massachusetts: Alexie’s Work Remains In Curriculum

Friday, November 4th, 2011

It has been a formidable year for Sherman Alexie, whose Young Adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been challenged several times, due to would-be censors’ unease about sexual and violent content. Alexie’s book was challenged in Helena, Montana, swapped out of the curriculum at Hastings Middle School in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, banned from classrooms in Prineville, Oregon, banned in Stockton, Missouri (for not reflecting “community values”) and, by one vote, was banned from all grades by the School Board of Richland, Washington.

In fact, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian placed second on the Christian Science Monitor’s2010 list of the most frequently-challenged books.

But recently, a storm that had brewed around Alexie’s book in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts came to a conclusion. At Old Rochester Regional Junior High school, a parent complained that the work was not appropriate for eighth-graders. When the book was initially challenged, the Powers That Be were tempted to simply pull the book to avoid conflict, stating that a proper policy for reconsideration did not exist in the school district. One resourceful librarian, however, located the policy in the district’s manual and presented it to the superintendent.

In ...

The First Amendment Writes Contest Submission Deadline Has Been EXTENDED To Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday, November 4th, 2011

For the contest rules and application form, please click here.


Celebrate Neil Gaiman’s Birthday with a CBLDF Fundraiser!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Perennial Fund supporter Neil Gaiman celebrates his birthday on November 10, and the ladies with the Fangirls: Comics Club and A Comic Shop are ready to party! You can join them at The Geek Easy inside A Comic Shop (114 S. Semoran Blvd, Winter Park, FL) on November 10 from 7:00 – 11:00 p.m. for comics, music, games and more. Neil will be calling in so everyone can sing Happy Birthday to him! To celebrate, the organizers are also holding a raffle to raise funds for CBLDF.

For more details, visit the Facebook event page here.

Oh, You Mean That "Random Person" Sitting Right Next To Me?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

Just yesterday, the Washington Post noted the bizarre stranglehold that Grover Norquist and his anti-tax zealotry has over Republicans in Congress.

Today, during his weekly press conference, House Speaker John Boehner was asked by NBC's Luke Russert what he thought about Norquist's influence on Republicans, to which Boehner responded with a bizarre dismissal:

BOEHNER: Our focus here is on jobs. We're doing everything I can to get our economy going, to get people back to work. It's not often I'm asked about some random person.

RUSSERT: To your conference, is Grover Norquist a random person?

BOEHNER: Listen, our focus is on creating jobs, not talking about somebody's personality.

Ummm ...really? Because the last time we checked, it was rather uncommon for "some random person" to be seated right next to high-ranking GOP leaders like John Boehner:

Ahead Of FCC v. Fox Rehearing, CBS Wins Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction Ruling

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

A U.S. appeals court Wednesday threw out a federal agency’s decision to fine CBS Corp television stations $550,000 for airing singer Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast.

A divided 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said that in imposing the fine, the Federal Communications Commission “arbitrarily and capriciously” departed from prior policy that exempted “fleeting” indecency from sanctions.

Bob Corn-Revere, a lawyer for CBS, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The FCC also did not immediately return a call.

Jackson’s right breast was briefly exposed to almost 90 million TV viewers after the singer Justin Timberlake accidentally ripped off part of her bustier during a halftime show performance. CBS was fined $27,500 for each of the 20 stations that the New York-based company owned.

The 3rd Circuit in 2008 struck down the fine, but that decision was vacated when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 upheld the FCC policy as rational, in an opinion involving News Corp’s Fox TV stations. It did not decide if the policy is constitutional, and returned the CBS case to the 3rd Circuit.

Read more from Reuters

Boulder, Colorado Joins Call for End to Corporate Personhood

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Citizens of Boulder, Colorado voted last night to pass a ballot measure calling for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights as people to influence elections. The campaign was a grassroots effort organized by Move to Amend, a national coalition dedicated to abolishing corporate personhood and reversing the Supreme Court’s deeply flawed decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

“From Occupy Wall Street to Boulder, Colorado and every town in between, Americans are fed up with corporate dominance of our political system,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a national spokesperson for Move to Amend. “Local resolution campaigns are an opportunity for citizens to speak up and let it be known that we won’t accept the corporate takeover of our government lying down. We urge communities across the country to join the Move to Amend campaign and raise your voices.”


The national movement supporting a constitutional amendment is picking up steam. Yesterday, Senators Tom Udall and Michael Bennet (with additional cosponsors) introduced an amendment that would reverse the effects of the Citizens United decision, a move which according to PFAW’s Marge Baker, will will help ensure that “the American people – not ...

What do we need? JOBS! When do we need them? NOW!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Every day all over the country we hear that what the American people need most are jobs in our communities. President Obama has proposed a jobs bill that would help create these jobs while rebuilding crumbling infrastructure and make sure our teachers, firefighters and police officers stay employed doing the things that make this country safe and stronger.

Yesterday, People For the American way helped in the fight to create jobs by hosting a teleconference with our members, highlighting our ongoing work to support the President’s American Jobs Act and hearing from top White House officials about where we need to go to move the Act forward. We also had the privilege of attending a special White House meeting where the President, Vice President and top staff reiterated their commitment to putting Americans back to work. Their passionate words energized the progressive audience as we continue to engage in this very important fight.

The American Jobs Act is a proactive step in the right direction but faces conservative opposition. We need to continue to put the pressure on those that seek to put Big Business and the wealthy ahead of the children and families who will bear the brunt the ...

Norton Thanks Issa for Pulling DC Bill

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Yesterday we reported how eager Representative Darrell Issa was to override DC’s home rule when he introduced a bill to mandate new DC hiring practices. Just hours later, he pulled his bill off the markup schedule for his committee, where it had been fast-tracked. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) called Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today to thank him for pulling his bill on District of Columbia hiring practices, after D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown called and assured Issa that the city was moving forward with its own hiring reform legislation. During an affable phone conversation, Norton told Issa that she has long advised members of Congress who have concerns about local D.C. laws to speak directly with the mayor, council chair, or her regarding their concerns rather than to introduce legislation, and that she hopes that other Members will follow Issa’s example in this case of working directly with the city to address their concerns.

We must still remain vigilant in the House, because as Delegate Norton points out:

The current House Republican majority has been less open to working with the District and instead has moved ...

Letter to the New York Times: The GOP’s War on the Courts

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

This letter to the editor from PFAW's Marge Baker was published in today's New York Times:

Re “G.O.P. Field Stoking Anger at U.S. Courts” (front page, Oct. 24):

Extreme anti-judiciary measures like those proposed by Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, as well as Mitt Romney’s choice of the ultra-conservative failed Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork to head his legal team, are chilling reminders of the stakes of the 2012 presidential election.

But these are not far-off threats. The G.O.P. has already found a simple and immediate way to wage war on the federal judiciary: by obstructing the confirmation of new judges.

There are about 100 vacancies in federal courts throughout the country, a third of which are in districts so hard pressed that they have been designated “judicial emergencies.”

In spite of this, Senate Republicans have been confirming nominees at a record sluggish pace. The Senate is currently sitting on 23 nominees, virtually all of whom have strong bipartisan support. It simply defies reason that nominees who have received absolutely no opposition from either party are sometimes forced to wait months for a simple up-or-down confirmation vote.

A functioning independent judiciary is at the ...

Corporate Political Spending: Relief through Consumer & Shareholder Pressure

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC which granted corporations the same rights as people to spend unlimited, undisclosed money to influence elections, the 2012 election cycle promises to bring the biggest flood of political spending from outside groups we’ve ever seen. Such outsized influence by a few corporations and special interest groups is a staggering reflection on the state of our democracy, and it’s clear that corporations are well on their way to becoming our elected officials’ primary constituency. If this pattern continues unabated, American citizens will be left in the dust.

A recent story by the Washington Post examines two studies showing that although special interests are likely to continue flooding the electoral process with political donations, many are beginning to realize that avoiding political spending altogether is good for government and good for business.

Americans are taking back our democracy by showing corporations that staying out of the political process is in their best interest after all. Under pressure from customers and shareholders, corporations are realizing that when they engage in political spending, they become a symbol of what they support – and the public-relations impact isn’t always positive.

When Target gave money ...

State Chapter Intellectual Freedom Report: North Dakota

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Periodically, the OIF Blog will be featuring a profile of the intellectual freedom activities from ALA’s state chapters. Our third featured state is North Dakota. The entire series can be found here.

The North Dakota Library Association’s (NDLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee is an active and vibrant group of individuals who provide assistance to NDLA members on challenges and censorship issues. The majority of our efforts are spent promoting awareness of intellectual freedom related topics. We do this in a variety of ways including email reminders, posts to our blog, articles in our association’s publication The Good Stuff and presentations at our annual conference. We also monitor legislation that relates to intellectual freedom. State and federal officials have been contacted, on behalf of NDLA and its members, asking them to support and uphold the principles of intellectual freedom. Committee members work in a variety of library settings. This insures balanced representation for librarians throughout the state.

Committee Highlights:

Within the past couple years we completed a major revision of the North Dakota Intellectual Freedom Handbook for Libraries, which is available on our association’s web site.

In 2009, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John ...

Florida Students Get Lesson in Voter Suppression

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The abhorrent new Florida election-law has snared its first public victim: A high school teacher who’s being fined a thousand dollars for failing to turn in voter registration forms she collected from her civics class within 48 hours.

Earlier this year, Governor Rick Scott and his Republican legislative allies amended the state’s election law to make it more difficult to both register voters and for citizens exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections. Recently, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a Rick Scott appointee, wrote a letter to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi that asked her to impose the fine on Dawn Quarles, a high school government teacher.

Before the law was amended, people running registration drives were given 10 days to send their applications to election officials. Now, they have only 48 hours. The law isn’t just affecting civics teachers--thanks to the strict requirements imposed by the legislation the Florida League of Women Voters has ceased to conduct voter registration drives.

Additionally, the law decreases the number of early voting days, which were seen as aiding democratic-leaning constituencies during the 2008 election. Florida Republicans are trying to shape the electorate to their advantage by disenfranchising Florida voters, and whatever ...

Larry Flynt is Coming to Town

Monday, October 31st, 2011


On Friday, November 4th at 8:15 PM, as part of the Virginia Film Festival, the Center is sponsoring a 15th anniversary of “The People vs. Larry Flynt.  Immediately after the screening will be a live interview with Larry Flynt himself.  Following that interview, Flynt will be signing copies of his newest book, “One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History.”  (Movie ticketing information is available here).  To promote the program, artist Sam Welty created this mural on Charlottesville’s First Amendment Monument.

Join our Nov. 9 webinar on comics/manga censorship worldwide

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Access to comic books, graphic novels, and manga is an increasingly hot topic in the library, creative, and free speech communities.  For libraries and other distributors, there are issues of why and how to collect and make available these materials, and how to handle challenges (including legal and policy challenges).  Creators need to know what support is out there if their materials are under attack, and how these attacks manifest themselves.  Free speech advocates are interested in how their support of basic principles of access to information applies to these materials.

To kick off our “Intellectual Freedom across the Globe” webinar series, OIF and IFLA FAIFE are pleased to present “Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga, and Libraries,” a one-hour look at how censorship affects comics around the world.  This webinar will discuss the history of comic book censorship, and highlight some of the current issues facing libraries and content creators around the globe, including a spotlight on Tokyo’s recent law affecting manga.  There will also be an overview of policies and best practices related to comic books, graphic novels, and manga in libraries.

Date: Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Time: 9:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, 1500 GMT

Cost: 30 USD ...

Tighter Grip on Social Media

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
China plans new measures to limit online criticism.

After 21 Years, The Thomas Jefferson Center Is Busier Than Ever

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

In April 2011, Robert O’Neil retired as the director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression—a position he held since the Center’s founding in 1990.  O’Neil’s imprint on the Center was so strong that for many, the Center and O’Neil were inseparable.  If the next few weeks are any indication, however, there should be little concern that the efforts of the Center to both promote and defend the right of free speech will diminish after the loss of its founding director.

  • On Saturday, October 29, the Center will be launching the Jefferson Symposiums, the first in an annual series of conferences on timely First Amendment issues. Leading constitutional scholars and practitioners from around the country will gather at the UVA School of Law to discuss “Disclosure, Anonymity, and the First Amendment,”  an examination of the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which the high court held that corporations could spend unlimited sums to support or oppose electoral candidates. “As a barrier against the corruption that money might bring, the majority relied on mandatory disclosure of the source of all campaign expenditures,” said symposium co-organizer and U.Va. law professor John C. ...

Ten Years After the Patriot Act, a Look at Three of the Most Dangerous Provisions Affecting Ordinary Americans

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Ten years ago today, in the name of protecting national security and guarding against terrorism, President George W. Bush signed into law some of the most sweeping changes to search and surveillance law in modern American history. Unfortunately known as the USA PATRIOT Act, many of its provisions incorporate decidedly unpatriotic principles barred by the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. Provisions of the PATRIOT Act have been used to target innocent Americans and are widely used in investigations that have nothing to do with national security.

Much of the PATRIOT Act was a wish list of changes to surveillance law that Congress had previously rejected because of civil liberties concerns. When reintroduced as the PATRIOT Act after September 11th, those changes -- and others -- passed with only limited congressional debate.

Just what sort of powers does the PATRIOT Act grant law enforcement when it comes to surveillance and sidestepping due process? Here are three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were sold to the American public as necessary anti-terrorism measures, but are now used in ways that infringe on ordinary citizens’ rights:


Under this provision, the FBI can ...

Ten Years After the Patriot Act, a Look at Three of the Most Dangerous Provisions Affecting Ordinary Americans

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Ten years ago today, in the name of protecting national security and guarding against terrorism, President George W. Bush signed into law some of the most sweeping changes to search and surveillance law in modern American history. Unfortunately known as the USA PATRIOT Act, many of its provisions incorporate decidedly unpatriotic principles barred by the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. Provisions of the PATRIOT Act have been used to target innocent Americans and are widely used in investigations that have nothing to do with national security.

Much of the PATRIOT Act was a wish list of changes to surveillance law that Congress had previously rejected because of civil liberties concerns. When reintroduced as the PATRIOT Act after September 11th, those changes -- and others -- passed with only limited congressional debate.

Just what sort of powers does the PATRIOT Act grant law enforcement when it comes to surveillance and sidestepping due process? Here are three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were sold to the American public as necessary anti-terrorism measures, but are now used in ways that infringe on ordinary citizens’ rights:


Under this provision, the FBI can ...

Geoff Johns, Neil Gaiman & Garth Ennis Rewards For Everyone Signing Up To Be Counted!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Since launching our Be Counted membership drive, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has raised over $61,500 of our goal to raise $100,000 for our important work by October 31. We’ve gotten this far because of the generous support of comics readers, creators, and business professionals, all of whom donated their money and time to support the CBLDF’s vital mission. With days left to go, we’re asking you to help us reach our goal by making a membership contribution today.

This week, we’re thanking everyone who can support the CBLDF by offering signed incentives for supporters who can join at our $25, $50, and $100 levels, in addition to the terrific opportunities for original art and Lunch With Legends for our higher level donors. From today until midnight on October 31, we’re proud to offer the following thank yous for those who sign up to Be Counted as CBLDF members:

$25 MEMBER– Members who join CBLDF at our $25 level will receive their 2011 Member Card, featuring Green Lantern and signed by Geoff Johns! This offer is good while supplies last.

$50 SUPPORTER – Members who join CBLDF at our $50 level will receive a CBLDF exclusive print ...

Standoff in Activist’s Village

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Supporters of a Chinese rights lawyer under house arrest clash with area police.

Retailers — Be Counted In Diamond’s CBLDF Member Drive!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

In this month’s Diamond Previews, Retailers and Comic Shop Owners will find the most important item they will order this year — their CBLDF Retailer Membership! Retail Members are a vital component to the ongoing work of the CBLDF, and this Thursday is the deadline to sign up your store on the Previews order form and support the Fund en masse!

With the help of the retail community, over the past year the CBLDF has supported the rights of comic stores by fighting unconstitutional laws that would have affected the sale and display of comics in Utah, Massachusetts, Alaska, and California. The CBLDF’s efforts were even cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. EMA, where the CBLDF’s brief outlining our industry’s struggle with censorship in the 1950s and beyond was included as part of the court’s decision to strike down a California law that would have given states the right to regulate violence. The CBLDF continues to keep watch and fight against laws that affect the Direct Market’s ability to do business.

Retailers that join this month will receive a number of incentive items, including variant covers of Action Comics #1, Ultimate Spider-man #160, and Liberty Annual ...

Geo-Mapping and the FBI: High-Level Statements Contradict Practices on the Ground

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

This week, Wired’s Danger Room blog reported on the FBI’s efforts to track Muslims in the United States using “geo-maps.” The maps, released in response to ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, show that the FBI is tracking Muslims and mapping Muslim communities extensively and with little, if any, suspicion of criminal activities.

These practices are in direct contrast to language in agency materials EFF received from the FBI yesterday in response to a FOIA request. EFF sought information on how the agency uses geospatial and data visualization tools to investigate criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats and specifically sought information about the Bureau's use of enterprise software called iDX3. According to the FBI’s website, the Bureau has been using iDX3 to conduct real-time tracking of suspects and situations since at least 2009. The tool, originally developed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, helps the FBI to “analyze, visualize, and disseminate FBI surveillance data, maps, diagrams, charts, 2D/3D views of cities, and other associated datasets”—in effect it appears to be the meta map to the individual maps the ACLU received in response to its FOIA requests.

So far the FBI has only released 35 pages to EFF, and ...