Category Archives: Political Correctness

Britain’s crackdown on Web comments sparks Police State fears, free-speech debate

Police  went knocking on the door of a 17-year-old boy who tweeted an insulting message to Olympic diver Tom Daley, saying that he had let down his dead father by failing to win a gold medal. He was arrested, but released and given a warning.

Facebook and Twitter have landed several Britons in court and even jail recently. Critics decry the trend as a worrisome overreaction.

Los Angeles Times | Nov 8, 2012

By Henry Chu

Matthew Woods of Chorley, England, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for making offensive comments about two kidnapped girls on his Facebook page. (Rex Features, Associated press / October 8, 2012)

CHORLEY, England — Everyone agrees that his “jokes” making fun of two kidnapped girls crossed the line. Matthew Woods swiftly became an object of contempt after he posted the crude and offensive comments on his Facebook page.

But did he deserve to be locked up for them?

A judge thought so, and ordered the 19-year-old to spend 12 weeks in jail, essentially for overstepping the bounds of good taste. Woods now sits behind bars — and also in the middle of a growing clash in Britain between freedom of expression, societal mores and the digital revolution.

Woods is one of several people whose use of social media has landed them on the wrong side of the law. They’ve been arrested, tried in court or otherwise subjected to public censure for posting distasteful opinions or malicious statements online, remarks that would’ve earned them little more than disapproving looks if they’d said the same thing over a pint in their corner pub.

One man angry about the war in Afghanistan was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service for declaring on Facebook that “all soldiers should die and go to hell.” Police also went knocking on the door of a 17-year-old boy who tweeted an insulting message to Olympic diver Tom Daley, saying that he had let down his dead father by failing to win a gold medal. He was arrested, but released and given a warning.

While deploring such sentiments, civil liberties groups and prosecutors alike have registered alarm over the rash of arrests and investigations, concerned about an erosion of free expression here in one of the world’s oldest — and most raucous — democracies.

“We are seeing a criminalization of speech that wasn’t there before,” said Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of the London-based nonprofit group Index on Censorship. “It’s seriously worrying.”

The source of the controversy is a 2003 communications law that, among other things, makes it a crime to send messages deemed “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” through a public electronic network.

Critics note that provision actually comes from an older version of the law from the 1930s and was aimed at protecting telephone operators from abuse. The 2003 act kept that passage, but it was in a world before Facebook, Twitter or other online social networking sites, at a time when the phrase “going viral” hadn’t yet gone, well, viral.

Yet the law continues to govern a completely new media landscape encompassing the Internet and its offshoots, an anachronistic situation that critics say should be urgently addressed but probably won’t be, given the current government’s focus on reviving the British economy.

“The recent spate of arrests shows us that the law is having unintended consequences,” said Damian Tambini, an expert on media policy at the London School of Economics. The communications act needs revision, he said, “but legislative reform will not happen for at least two years.”

Beyond the law, some observers also detect something deeper at work in British society, what Hughes calls “the beginning of a culture of people thinking they have a right not to be offended.”

The trend is evident not just online, they say. Recently a man was sentenced to four months in jail for wearing a T-shirt in public on which he’d written “One less pig” after two policewomen were killed in an ambush in a nearby city. The statute cited was a different one: a breach of public order.

Such punishments can seem shocking to Americans, for whom freedom of speech — even (or especially) odious and hurtful speech — is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Britain has no written constitution, though it boasts its own long, proud tradition of free expression as embodied in the popular tourist attraction Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, where anyone can get on a soapbox and release his or her inner orator.

The Digital Age has complicated matters.

In a world where mass communication is available not just to licensed broadcasters but anyone with an Internet connection, musings that might originally have been intended for private consumption can reach an audience of millions in the blink of an eye. And words that would quickly disappear into thin air when spoken aloud, even in a public place, can remain alive forever and endlessly shared.

“There are issues with new technology, obviously: We’re all publishers now, we’re all citizen journalists and all the rest of it. And things going viral and being retweeted and reposted is a whole set of technological and social challenges,” said Hughes. “But I think we certainly shouldn’t overreact…. If we try to patrol, through law and regulation, every tweet and every Facebook post, we’re shutting down the potential the Web is giving us.”

That hasn’t stopped Britons from complaining to authorities about offensive electronic messages and material, from the trivial to the truly outrageous.

Last year, police were called out to investigate nearly 2,500 such cases, the BBC reported recently. Some police officials have complained that this is not a good use of their time.

The chief prosecutor for England and Wales, Keir Starmer, appears to agree. His office is now consulting police, attorneys and academics to come up with guidelines on what kinds of cases should merit investigation and prosecution under the 2003 law.

One possible marker is whether the messages are actually harassing or threatening, rather than simply distasteful.

“The law prohibits grossly offensive messages, and we’ve got to work within the law as it is,” Starmer told the BBC. But “if there are a lot of prosecutions, it would have a chilling effect on free speech, and I think that’s a very important consideration.”

Matthew Woods had no inkling that his upsetting comments about the two kidnapped young girls would bring both public opprobrium and judicial punishment down on his head in such heavy measure.

In what he said was a drunken state, the unemployed teen sat at his computer in Chorley, an old mining town in northern England, and tapped out tasteless jokes that he’d found on the Web.

“Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?” he wrote about one of the kidnap victims, a redheaded tyke. Other comments posted on his Facebook page included repulsive sexual references.

Angry responses streamed in almost immediately after he pressed the “send” button. Public vitriol escalated to the point that a mob of about 50 people reportedly gathered outside Woods’ house, causing police to take him into custody for his own safety.

His lawyer, David Edwards, said that Woods was suddenly cast as “Public Enemy No. 2,” behind the suspected kidnapper of one of the missing girls. Barely 48 hours later, Woods pleaded guilty in court, hoping for leniency. But the magistrate called Woods’ action a “despicable crime” and handed down the 12-week jail sentence.

“It’s pretty much the maximum that the court guidelines allow. It surprised me no end,” said Edwards.

He agrees that Woods’ comments were appalling. But he noted that the two people who complained to authorities had actively sought out Woods’ Facebook page when they’d heard of the “jokes,” then called police afterward.

“There should be a huge distinction drawn between that and directing the comments personally to anybody,” Edwards said.

Whether Woods would be subject to prosecution under the new guidelines being drawn up by Starmer’s office remains to be seen.

“The threshold for prosecution has to be high,” Starmer told the BBC. “We live in a democracy…. People have the right to be offensive; they have the right to be insulting. And that has to be protected.”

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Mother arrested for cheering at her daughter’s graduation ceremony


Humiliation: Shannon Cooper cheered as her daughter walked across the stage to get her diploma from South Florence High School Saturday night, but just minutes later, she was handcuffed and arrested

Daily Mail | Jun 5, 2012

By Paul Thompson

A mother has claimed she was arrested at her daughter’s graduation – for cheering too loudly.

Shannon Cooper was handcuffed and escorted out of the arena where she had been watching her daughter Iesha receive her High School diploma.

She said she was left humiliated after being taken out and put in the back of a police van.

The arrest she said ruined what was supposed to be on of the happiest days of her life.

Her daughter didn’t realise her mother had been arrested until friends told her.

‘They’re locking your momma up for cheering — and I was like that isn’t right because other people was cheering and they didn’t lock them up,’ Iesha told WWAY TV.

Cooper said she wasn’t cheering any louder than other parents during the ceremony for graduates from Florence High School in Florence, South Carolina.

She said she was arrested after her 18-year-old daughter walked across the stage to collect her diploma.

Officials said police had warned parents prior to the ceremony that screaming would result in them being removed from the Florence Civic Centre.

Cooper said she was handcuffed and placed in a police van before being transferred to a detention centre.

She was held for several hours before being released on a bond of $225.

Cooper said: ‘Humiliation. I don’t even think humiliation could describe how I felt. You know, because I feel from just my feelings and then looking at my daughter how she felt.

‘I could take you know you know if I did something ,but like I said, yes they said you’ll be escorted out no problem. I’ll be escorted out. I’ll go nicely because I’m gonna cheer. It was hard work. I went through so much to get her to this point you know,’ explained Shannon.

She added: ‘I didn’t do any more than the others did. Which I feel like no one should have went to jail.’

Iesha said she was devastated to see her mother arrested at the milestone event in her life.

‘That’s all I can picture, me crying, looking at the police van knowing my mother is in there,’ said Iesha.

Cooper said her arrest meant the graduation plans for her daughter had to be postponed.

Police refused to comment about the case, but said the people who got disorderly when they were escorted out of the civic center were arrested

China tightens grip on social media with new rules to prevent “rumors and controversial posts”


A woman views the Chinese social media website Weibo at a cafe in Beijing in April.

CNN | May 28, 2012

By Katie Hunt

Hong Kong (CNN) — Users of Sina Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like micro-blogging service, now have to abide by new rules aimed at preventing online rumors and other controversial posts.

The “user contracts” that took effect on Monday come as authorities put increased pressure on China’s social networks to police what their users are saying.

Sina has also rolled out a points system as a way to manage users who post content that contravenes the new rules, according to documents posted on Sina Weibo’s website.

Under the system, each Weibo account will begin with a score of 80 and points will be deducted for any perceived misconduct. Accounts that drop to zero will be canceled.

Weibo and rival platforms like Tencent’s QQ have become hugely popular in China, with many Chinese regarding them as an important source of news and other information. Weibo is estimated to have 300 million users.

China’s crackdown on ‘online rumours’ is just getting started

China’s Sina Weibo Unveils New Censorship System

The contract seeks to prevent posts that “spread rumors, disrupt social order, or destroy social stability.”

Other banned content includes revealing national secrets, threatening the honor of the nation, or promoting illicit behavior such as gambling.

‘China’s Twitter’ introduces contracts to curb rumors

The new rules also seek to stop the use of code words or other expressions often employed by Chinese web users to refer to controversial people or events. For example, the disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai was often referred to as BXL.

Doug Young, a Chinese media expert from Fudan University in Shanghai, said the steps are intended to ease Beijing’s concerns about the spreading of false rumors.

“I think Sina are trying to be proactive and clean up the site and show the government they are taking steps to stop people from spreading false information or other posts that create trouble,” he said.

In April, China’s Internet regulator temporarily suspended the comments sections of Weibo and Tencent’s QQ as a punishment for allowing rumors to spread.

Authorities also closed 16 websites and detained six people for allegedly spreading rumors of “military vehicles entering Beijing” shortly after the arrest of Bo when China’s Internet was rife with talk of an alleged coup.

Resident of California town wants to make it illegal to smoke in your own backyard


A California man wants to make it illegal for residents to smoke while they are outside their homes but still on their own property. Brian McDermott/NYDN

Controversial proposal lights a controversy in Rocklin

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | Feb 28, 2012

By David Boroff

Smokers in a small California town will be barred from lighting up in their backyards if one resident gets his way.

James Baker has asked the Rocklin City Council to ban outdoor smoking, even making it illegal for residents to smoke while they are outside their homes but still on their own property.

Baker wants the city to consider the health risk to his children, who have asthma. He has asked his neighbors to refrain from smoking outdoors while his kids are playing on his property.

Some neighbors have complied; others have not. Now he wants the city council to take his side.

“We’re just saying: ‘Please don’t poison us,’” Baker told the Placer Herald newspaper.

“Can you smoke inside your home? The reason they don’t want to do that is because they don’t want their family breathing it in. But it’s okay for your neighbor?”

The proposal has, not surprisingly, met with resistance.

“As a smoker, I think that smokers should be considerate,” Rocklin resident Ryan Malonson, who is a smoker, told CBS 13 in Sacramento. “But on your own property? That’s unacceptable. It’s not going to pass.”

Tara Dadrill, a contributor on Yahoo.com, went even further on Monday, ridiculing the proposal as “hypersensitive” and an “infringement on liberty.”

“Perhaps a nonsmoking neighborhood should be established in California, right next to the no pets and no scent-inducing foliage regions of the town,” she wrote.

Baker is more than likely fighting an uphill battle to get the legislation passed.

“How do you regulate and enforce smoking on private property that may drift with the wind into a neighbor’s yard,” Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst told the Placer Herald.

Baker also told the Placer Herald that he is considering moving out of the home.

“It’s not a property issue. It’s an issue of poison,” he told the newspaper. “Ten percent of all Californians smoke. In a town of our size, are we protecting the rights of the minority?”

Libya: secret role played by British Intelligence creating path to the fall of Tripoli


Libyan rebel fighters prepare to shoot towards pro-Gadhafi forces during fighting in downtown Tripoli Photo: AP

The key role played by Britain in equipping and advising Libya’s rebel fighters for their final push on Tripoli was becoming clear last night as Col Muammar Gaddafi’s remaining forces staged a last stand around his bunker.

Telegraph | Aug 22, 2011

By Gordon Rayner, Thomas Harding and Duncan Gardham

For weeks, military and intelligence officers have been helping the rebels plan their co-ordinated attack on the capital, and Whitehall sources have disclosed that the RAF stepped up raids on Tripoli on Saturday morning in a pre-arranged plan to pave the way for the rebel advance.

MI6 officers based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi had honed battle plans drawn up by Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) which were agreed 10 weeks ago.

The constantly-updated tactical advice provided by British experts to the rebel leaders centred on the need to spark a fresh uprising within Tripoli that could be used as the cue for fighters to advance on the city.

But when it finally came, the speed with which it achieved its goal took everyone, including the rebels, by surprise.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that although the uprising in Tripoli began on Saturday night, the first phase of the battle for the capital had begun hours earlier, when RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft attacked a key communications facility in south-west Tripoli as part of the agreed battle plan.

On Saturday morning five precision-guided Paveway IV bombs were dropped on the Baroni Centre, a secret intelligence base headed by Gaddafi’s brother-in-law Abdullah Senussi.

The aircraft then struck at least one main battle tank belonging to Gaddafi’s troops, and in the afternoon another RAF patrol destroyed an artillery piece on the western edge of Tripoli and a nearby command and control facility.

On the ground, the rebels had spent weeks smuggling weapons, communications equipment and battle-hardened fighters into Tripoli, setting up secret arms dumps around the capital and waiting for a pre-arranged signal to trigger the uprising.

Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the TNC, told the Daily Telegraph that the agreed signal was a televised speech by the TNC chairman, Mustafa Abd-al-Jalil, which was broadcast via the Qatar-based Libya TV on Saturday evening.

Mr Jalil told the citizens of Tripoli “you have to rise to the event”, and as dusk fell at around 8pm local time a group of rebels seized their chance and took control of the Ben Nabi Mosque close to the city centre.

Using loudspeakers which normally call people to prayer, they began anti-Gaddafi chants to confirm the start of what rebel leaders called Operation Mermaid Dawn – the battle for Tripoli, which is nicknamed Mermaid in Arabic.

Mr Shammam said: “The start of the uprising was pre-arranged. We used our TV station for Mr Jalil to give a speech calling for the uprising and soon most of the people of Tripoli were on the streets.”

The timing of the uprising caught Gaddafi completely by surprise; the rebels had spent that day flushing out that last of his forces from Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripoli, and the Brother Leader had clearly expected them to regroup, reorganise and re-arm – as they had done in the past after each major battle – before making an attempt on Tripoli.

Instead, the rebels who had been fighting in Zawiyah were making a dash for the capital, and in the skies overhead RAF Tornados and Typhoons were launching further surgical strikes on pre-planned targets.

The RAF and its alliance partners carried out 46 sorties on Sunday alone, relying heavily on the RAF’s Brimstone ground attack missile system that can pick out targets close to civilian areas with incredible accuracy, minimising the risk of civilian casualties.

Gaddafi’s bunker at Bab al-Aziziya was pounded throughout the night, and the Tornados’ advanced electronics also enabled aircraft already in the sky to hit Gaddafi targets as they were identified, using a system known as dynamic targeting.

Gaddafi’s command and control centres, set up in industrial buildings or even empty schools, were also attacked, crippling the Libyan despot’s ability to direct his troops.

On the ground, meanwhile, the rebels sent out mass text messages to regime opponents waiting in Tripoli for a signal to rise up, and as Gaddafi’s forces tried in vain to suppress the revolt it spread out across 13 suburbs.

By Sunday afternoon the rebels who had been fighting in Zawiyah were just miles away from the outskirts of Tripoli.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, confirmed yesterday that Britain had equipped the fighters with a range of “non-lethal” kit including advanced telecommunications equipment and 1,000 sets of body armour.

They had also been given night vision goggles, which proved crucial in picking out snipers who had been sent by Gaddafi to impede their progress towards the capital.

The battle plan also included a sea-borne assault on Tripoli launched from the port of Misrata to the east, which landed at dawn on Sunday.

Gaddafi took to the airwaves to make a series of increasingly desperate appeals for Libyans to defend Tripoli from the rebels as “a matter of life and death” but the crackling recordings of his voice – and a lack of any video footage – led to speculation that he had either fled the country or had gone into hiding in a 2,000-mile network of tunnels built in the 1980s.

His soldiers, sensing the battle was lost, had begun dumping their uniforms wherever they stood, and by midnight on Sunday the rebels had reached Green Square, the symbolic heart of Tripoli, with little resistance.

The speed of the rebel advance was such that Gaddafi’s intended heir, his son Saif al-Islam, had no time to reach his father’s compound, and was captured by rebels on Saturday night.

His brother, Mohammed, was giving a telephone interview to a broadcaster when a gunfight broke out inside his home. The line went dead and seconds later he too was captured.

Mr Shammam said: “The plan was very successful. Our assumption was that it would take a few days but the results were clear in a few hours.

“We were expecting more resistance from Gaddafi’s troops. We thought they were determined to fight to the last moment but it seems like they got tired or lost the cause.”

David Cameron, who was on a family holiday in Cornwall, also seemed to have been caught out by the rapid turn of events.

Although he had been kept up to date with the rebels’ plans, no-one had expected Tripoli to fall so quickly, and the Prime Minister scrambled to get back to Downing Street to chair a meeting of the National Security Council yesterday.

Speaking outside Number 10, he paid tribute to the “incredible bravery, professionalism and dedication” of the RAF pilots, adding: “This has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part.”

As the fighting continued in Tripoli last night, the rebels had gained control of around 90 per cent of the city, with the bloodiest battle raging around Gaddafi’s compound at Bab al-Aziziya.

Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Khamis, was reported to have led his eponymous Khamis Brigade into battle from the compound, killing what one official described as “a big number” of rebels.

Tanks rolled out of the compound to begin shelling the city, and snipers fired from rooftops to prevent rebels joining the battle at Bab al-Aziziya.

Loyalist tanks were also deployed at the port, but the rebels continued to press on, and scored further victories.

By mid-afternoon yesterday they had reportedly captured a third son of Gaddafi, Saadi, and at 4pm Libya’s state broadcaster went off the air, removing one of the despot’s final and most important tools in his ability to maintain any form of resistance.

Across Tripoli, its citizens tore down every green flag of the Gaddafi regime they could find, chanting “freedom” in English. By last night, Green Square had been renamed Martyrs’ Square as 42 years of tyranny finally came to an end.

“We came out today to feel a bit of freedom,” said Ashraf Halaby, 30, as he joined the celebrations in the square. “We still don’t believe that this is happening.”

FBI wants businesses watching for customers paying with cash

Government calls buying ‘night flashlights,’ making ‘extreme religious statements’ indicators of terrorism

WND | Aug 12, 2011

By Bob Unruh

Just days after the White House announced a community-based approach to combating terrorism in the United States, the FBI and other agencies are asking managers of surplus stores to spy on their customers, watching whether they pay in cash, make “extreme” religious statements or purchase products such as waterproof matches.

And the request from the government also is going to gun shops, fertilizer suppliers, motels and hotels, authorities say.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced a new plan titled “Empowering local partners to prevent violent extremism in the United States.” In it, Obama wrote, “Communities – especially Muslim American communities whose children, families and neighbors are being targeted for recruitment by al-Qaida – are often best positioned to take the lead because they know their communities best.”

The report warns that while the Constitution recognizes freedom of expression, “even for individuals who espouse unpopular or even hateful views,” it also is the responsibility of government to deter “plots by neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic hate groups, racial supremacists, and international and domestic terrorist groups.”

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“The best defenses against violent extremist ideologies are well-informed and equipped families, local communities, and local institutions. Their awareness of the threat and willingness to work with one another and government is part of our long history of community-based initiatives and partnerships dealing with a range of public safety challenges,” the report says.

One of the apparent elements of the White House strategy is a series of brochures being handed out to farm supply stories, gun shops, military surplus stores and even hotels and motels. The brochures ask proprietors, clerks and others to watch out for “potential indicators” of terrorism, including “paying with cash,” having a “missing hand/fingers,” making “extreme religious statements coupled with comments that are violent or appear to condone violence” and making bulk purchases of “Meals Ready to Eat” or “night flashlights.”

The following was handed out to surplus stores by agents of the FBI in Denver in recent days.
The flyer was reminiscent of the Department of Homeland Security’s 2009 report “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” that suggested “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups.”

The report from the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis defined right-wing extremism in the U.S. as “divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

The DHS report had followed only by weeks a report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked conservative groups to domestic terrorism.

The Missouri report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for presidential candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin. It further warned law enforcement to watch out for individuals with “radical” ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.

Officials with Oath Keepers.org noted the document was similar to one earlier given to gun store managers in Utah. Authorities in Denver confirmed to WND that related brochures are going to surplus stores, hotels and motels, farm supply companies that handle fertilizer and gun shops.

“This new handout expands the absurdity by now also targeting customers of military surplus stores, and by specifically targeting the purchasing of very common, and very popular, preparedness items such as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) as ‘potential indicators of terrorist activities,'” said a statement from Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

“Islamic terrorists are not known to hang out in local Army-Navy surplus stores, stocking up on MREs, high capacity magazines and bi-pods for their long range rifles,” the statement said. “As Brandon Smith, over at Alt-market.com notes, ‘These are very common purchases, not for terrorists, but for Preppers and Survivalists, who are obviously the targets of the FBI profile, not secret al-Qaida agents.’

“Spot on,” Rhodes wrote. “Obviously, the current crop of FBI ‘leadership’ considers anyone who wants to be self-sufficient and prepared to be a ‘threat’ that should be relentlessly tracked and reported.”

An FBI spokesman in Denver confirmed to WND that the flyer is genuine.

“It has been disseminated throughout the United States by the FBI. The flyer and the information on it, stands on its own merit. It was created by FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Denver Division has placed our contact information on the flyer and distributed it to local businesses within the states of Colorado and Wyoming.

“I assure you the process and the information has been well vetted by the Department of Justice before being released.”

In addition to contact information for the FBI, the flyer also had a telephone number for the Colorado Information Analysis Center, a law enforcement “fusion” center where director Dana Reynolds told WND it’s just part of the information-collecting done by the government.

He said when tips are turned in about suspicious activity, they are evaluated to determine whether there should be a police investigation.

“If it turns out to be nothing, if there’s no probably case, then the contact is ended there.”

However, when asked about profiling for suspicious behavior, such as that done successfully by security authorities in Israel, he said that was not being done, and why it is not being done “is a good question.”

One-time Colorado congressional candidate Rob McNealy, who also is a decision-maker in the Libertarian Party, told WND he came across the flyer to surplus stores among his circle of friends and quickly confirmed it was genuine.

He pointed out to WND the irony that the government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, specifically advises citizens to collect “ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables” as well as “flashlight and extra batteries” and “matches in a waterproof container.”

Then the FBI asks store managers to report the “suspicious” activity of buying the same items.

“It’s almost like entrapment,” McNealy said.

He warned that such practices could be used as attacks on free speech, the right of association and other constitutional provisions. And he believes authorities are targeting Americans who choose to prepare themselves for emergencies.

“Al-Qaida terrorists are not running around buying MREs,” he said.

McNealy said he has information “from somebody who sat in on one of the [fusion-center type] training things in their class they will talk about all the groups out there who are dangerous to cops, sovereign citizens, neo-Nazis – and Oath Keepers and tea party groups.”

“They lump them all together,” he said.

Oath Keepers reported last year that it appeared the Southern Poverty Law Center had become “officially” part of DHS. That was because the chief of the SPLC “now sits on the DHS ‘Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism’ along with the leaders of other so-called non government organizations,” the group reported.

The move came after a government agency accused a father of being associated “with a militia group known as Oath Keepers.”

“It should come as no surprise to see Joint Terrorism Task Forces in states now listing the purchasing of firearms, high capacity magazines, bi-pods, night vision, MREs, weatherproofed ammunition containers, etc. as ‘potential indicators of terrorist activities’ since SPLC is almost entirely focused on going after the militia movement and the Patriot Movement, and is also focused on relentlessly demonizing and smearing nearly any individual or group on the political right that advocates strict adherence to the Constitution or who advocates for the right to bear arms, for state nullification of unconstitutional federal laws, etc. which is why SPLC also has a special animus toward Oath Keepers, which it has labeled as one of the most worrisome groups out there, because it contains active duty police and military who advocate for strict obedience to the Constitution and who pledge to refuse to obey unconstitutional orders,” Rhodes wrote at the time.

“They see all of us on the patriot right as being terrorists or potential terrorists, and they intend to use all the power of government to control, suppress, marginalize, investigate, track, and if possible, prosecute us all until they stamp out our beliefs and views,” Rhodes told WND.

“How far we have come from the Founder’s ideal of a ‘well regulated’ (well equipped and well trained) citizen militia where ALL able bodied citizens were expected to keep and bear their own weapons, ammunition, field gear, and other supplies essential to personal military capability and competence. And the Founders expected us to keep that military gear at home and to actually train together in its use so we would ‘be prepared’ for anything, you know, like the Boy Scouts motto. That motto is a sad remnant of the Founders’ ideal of a prepared citizenry,” Rhodes wrote.

“Under the logic of this most recent handout, the Boy Scouts should be reported as ‘suspicious,'” he wrote.

“The Founders would have wanted all of us, every one, to ‘be prepared’ for ‘any old thing.’ They would have wanted us to have night vision, gas masks (which come in handy in many situations), ‘high-capacity’ magazines – and the powerful military pattern rifles that use them – bi-pods so we can shoot accurately at long distance, and plenty of ammunition in ‘weatherproofed’ containers (also known as surplus ammo cans). They would have wanted us to have plenty of MREs for handy field use, and even ‘night flashlights.’ I suppose ‘day flashlights’ are OK with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, but those dangerous ‘night flashlights’ are verboten, and anyone who buys one must be reported! I certainly hope it wasn’t actually someone at the FBI who wrote that.

“Funny thing is, who exactly do the authors of these handouts think they are talking to when they ask gun store and military surplus store owners and staff to spy on their customers and serve as a network of government snitches? These stores are usually owned and staffed by veterans, who are also very preparedness minded – in other words, just like the customers the government wants them to inform on. That’s like handing the MIAC report to Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin supporters and asking them to keep an eye on those pesky, subversive, and potentially dangerous Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin supporters. It’s absurd,” Rhodes wrote.

The U.S. administration has made clear in a number of cases that it is concerned about conservatives as a potential danger and even has argued in court that it wants the authority to track American citizens in order to develop “probable cause” needed for search warrants.

That argument is being made before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute over whether police investigators and other authorities should be allowed to track American citizens who have not done anything that would ordinarily prompt a judge to issue a search warrant.

“The court of appeals’ decision, which will require law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle if the device will be used for a ‘prolonged’ time period, has created uncertainty surrounding the use of an important law enforcement tool,” said the government’s brief in the case, U.S.A. v. Antoine Jones.

“Although in some investigations the government could establish probable cause and obtain a warrant before using a GPS device, federal law enforcement agencies frequently use tracking devices early in investigations, before suspicions have ripened into probable cause. The court of appeals’ decision prevents law enforcement officers from using GPS devices in an effort to gather information to establish probable cause.”

School punishes boys for playing at soldiers

SMH | May 31, 2011

by Murray Wardrop

A British primary school which disciplined two seven-year-old boys for playing army games has been condemned by parents.

Teachers ruled that the games amounted to “threatening behaviour” and reprimanded the two boys after they were seen making pistol shapes with their fingers.

Teachers broke up the imaginary classroom shoot-out and contacted the youngsters’ parents, warning them that such behaviour would not be tolerated.

Nathaniel Newton Infant School in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, which caters for around 180 pupils aged four to seven, said the gun gestures were “unacceptable” and were not permitted at school.

However, parents have described the reaction as “outrageous”, while family groups warned that “wrapping children in cotton wool” damages their upbringing.

A spokesman for the school said: “Far from stopping children from playing we actively encourage it. However a judgment call has to be made if playing turns into unacceptable behaviour.

“The issue here was about hand gestures being made in the shape of a gun towards members of staff which is understandably unacceptable, particularly in the classroom.”

A father of one of the boys said: “It’s ridiculous. How can you tell a seven-year-old boy he cannot play guns and armies with his friends?

“Another parent was called for the same reason. We were told to reprimand our son for this and to tell him he cannot play guns any more. The teacher said the boys should be reprimanded for threatening behaviour which would not be tolerated at the school.”

The community primary school was rated as “good” overall in an Ofsted report published last year, but was warned that the children ought to have greater freedom to play.

The inspectors praised pupils’ behaviour as “outstanding”, telling them in a letter: “Your behaviour is excellent and you work very well together.”

Parenting groups condemned the school’s reaction to the children’s game of soldiers, warning that it risked causing a rift between the school and parents.

Margaret Morrissey, founder of the family lobby group Parents Outloud, said: “It is madness to try to indoctrinate children aged seven with political correctness in this way.

“Children have played cowboys and Indians like this for generations and it does them absolutely no harm whatsoever. In my experience, it is the children who are banned from playing innocent games like this who then go on to develop a fascination with guns.

“We cannot wrap our children in cotton wool. Allowing them to take a few risks and play games outside is an essential part of growing up.”

The case follows a string of similar incidents in which children’s playtime activities have been curbed by overzealous staff over health and safety concerns.

Earlier this year, a Liverpool school banned youngsters from playing football with anything other than sponge balls amid fears youngsters might get hurt.

Research last month also found that one in six British schools had banned conkers due to concerns of pupils being hit in the face. Games such as leapfrog have also been banned.

Marcus Jones, the Tory MP for Nuneaton, said: “It is quite apparent that the seven-year-olds would be playing an innocent game.

“This is political correctness gone mad. When I was that age that type of game was common place and I don’t remember anyone coming to any harm from it.”