Archive for the ‘ First Amendment ’ Category

filed under: First Amendment | justice

Segal Opinion Piece At Politico On Aaron Swartz Case

8AM ON 29/08/2013
BY Beth Comery

Aaron Swartz Boston Wikipedia.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large David Segal has written an excellent piece at Politico “What killed Aaron Swartz?” summarizing the circumstances surrounding Swartz’s suicide and bringing us up to date on the case. The news regarding the Justice Department is depressing as always. Dave highlights one detail, the importance of which was not previously understood.

With my help, he started an Internet petition in support of the little guy — this time, himself. And according to the report MIT recently released about its role in the prosecution, that petition, as it met the authoritarianism and petty vindictiveness of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and her deputies, might have effectively cost Aaron his life.

Dave was the co-creator with Swartz of the online advocacy group Demand Progress — Internet petitions play a large role in their campaigns and should of course enjoy First Amendment protection. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa found this new information troubling enough to demand a new briefing from Attorney General Eric Holder, and Senators John Cornyn and Al Franken have secured a new briefing on the case in the spring. It’s not over.

(Photo by Phil Stearns)

Providence Daily Dose co-creator David Segal is also executive director of Demand Progress, a civil liberties and government reform activist group with more than 1.5 million members. He was previously a Providence city councilman, Rhode Island state representative, and congressional candidate in Rhode Island.


filed under: First Amendment |

Jessica Ahlquist Explains The First Amendment

4PM ON 20/05/2013
BY Beth Comery

constitution usa Attention Cranston Mayor Fung: Watch this show, you might learn something. Then apologize to Jessica Ahlquist.

PBS is running a 4-part series, Tuesdays at 9pm, Constitution USA with Peter Sagal — “Traveling across the country by motorcycle, Sagal is in search of where the Online levitra U.S. Constitution lives, how it works and how it doesn’t… how it unites us as a nation and how it has nearly torn us apart.”

One segment in the first episode features Jessica Ahlquist discussing the Cranston West Prayer Banner controversy.  The poise and confidence of this articulate young lady is simply startling.

Ms. Ahlquist will be receiving the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award this Wednesday (ProJo). The awards are starting to pile up — she has a bright future.

Check out RI’s Future where Jessica’s proud uncle Steve Ahlquist has posted the episode ready to watch.


filed under: First Amendment | Religion

I Know Plumbing When I See It

1PM ON 28/12/2012
BY Beth Comery

menorah So the Maccabees were card-carrying members of Pipefitters International. Who knew? By the time this menorah showed up in the state house rotunda everybody was so sick and tired of the endless tree discussion that we all just sighed and let it go.

However, my complaint now is based on aesthetic grounds. This stupendously gorgeous building is an architectural treasure designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White and we can’t just fill it with cheesy, handmade knickknacks. And I include in this discussion the ineffably creepy manger scene tucked in right under the menorah by some cranky old anti-Semite who just could not let the Jews have the last word. (Picture after the jump.) You can just imagine the poor guard at the door looking up and thinking “What now?!”  And I wouldn’t blame him one bit for just looking the other way out of sheer psychic exhaustion.

But both holidays are over now — the lovely official decorations are all down — and yet these two ghastly bits of business remain. They should be removed immediately.

The only solution for next year: no decorations of any kind. Just skip it. Let’s end this. Tell the governor that under no circumstances is he to return any calls from Fox News. And my plea to the local news stations; when Bishop Tobin calls another press conference, just don’t go. He has no news for you.

more »


filed under: Booze | First Amendment

How Do You Say ‘Christmas Tree’ In Aramaic?

5PM ON 28/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

state house rotunda So we are back to the tree-lighting discussion (ProJo 11.28.12). Governor Chafee had hoped to avoid the whole mishegas by not having an official lighting ceremony, but nooooo, out came the usual suspects. For one, we have roused that cynical demagogue and “Devout Catholic” Bill O’Reilly, who once again aims to inspire the low-information Christians with fear and loathing.

Well then, let’s take a moment to revive one of my favorite Bill O’Reilly memories so we can get a handle on the depth of his faith, and what it really means to him. In 2009 O’Reilly settled out of court a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by one of his female producers. According to HuffPo one of her filings contained this unsavory tidbit.

Defendant then stated he was going to Italy to meet the Pope, that his pregnant wife was staying at home with his daughter, and implied he was looking forward to extra-marital dalliances with the “hot” Italian women.

No room in the pensioni I guess. O’Reilly is now ignoring how things were actually resolved last year when Jon Stewart reported that it had been another devout Catholic, Don Carcieri, the previous Republican governor, who had first used the phrase “Holiday Tree.”

Let’s not forget, Jesus spoke Aramaic; these semantic distinctions were probably lost on him. It is unknown when the tree lighting will finally take place (3am might be a good choice). Who the hell cares at this point. Visitors to the State House rotunda will find several small trees and decorations already in place and illuminated. It looks lovely.


filed under: First Amendment | Religion

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

11PM ON 02/07/2012
BY Beth Comery

cross-shaped object Yeah, this has gotta go. I’m inclined to condemn this installation solely on its egregious aesthetic shortcomings, but there are larger issues at stake. This right here is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t be privatizing the municipal function of maintaining public median strips and roadsides. Where most people are motivated by civic pride to simply tidy things up, others see an opportunity for self-aggrandizement and a captive audience for their unwelcome sentiments and philosophies.

This cross was only recently erected by Peter Montaquila, owner of a nearby car wash and sanctioned keeper of the median. Calls to remove the cross have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe Mr. Montaquila will take comfort knowing that the Ku Klux Klan once fought a legal battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court under a similar fact pattern, with the Court ruling in 2005 that the Klan could not be denied participation in the Missouri Adopt-a-Highway program.

And according to Time Newsfeed the KKK has just petitioned the state of Georgia hoping to participate in their highway program. Some civil rights leaders say they would rather scrap the whole program. Exactly!

An editorial in the Sunday Providence Journal (“Crossing the line” 7.1.12) correctly points out the difference between this cross on Pleasant Valley Parkway and the one in Woonsocket. Mr. Montaquila maintains that he erected his cross in support of that cross. So far, Mayor Angel Taveras has lacked the political courage to do the right thing — scrap the whole program.

[UPDATE, Monday July 9: According to a report by Brian Crandall on Channel 10 News, Mr. Montaquila has moved the cross back across the street to his car wash property, which is fine. Apparently Mayor Taveras dropped by on Friday and they had a little chat. BC]


filed under: First Amendment | general assembly

“Forced Worship Stinks In God’s Nostrils”

4PM ON 04/12/2011
BY Beth Comery

Roger Williams So wrote Roger Williams on June 22, 1670 in a letter to Connecticut Governor Thomas Prence. Sophisticated theologians get this totally . . . then there’s Doreen Costa. Kudos to Steve Ahlquist for his well-reasoned assessment of the current “holiday tree” nonsense  in yesterday’s ProJo. His column “Chafee right to ignore loud majority” (B-6 of the December 3rd Providence Journal) takes State Rep. Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) to task, starting with her initial idiotic Christmas tree resolution and up to the current non-controversy. Costa does not seem to be a Constitutional scholar. Nor does she seem to care much for our state’s unique and noble founding ethos  — one that inspired those same Founding Fathers her Tea Party is always going on about. Ahlquist also takes note of more pressing issues facing our legislature right now,

While people in this state struggle to find jobs, and as families are losing their homes, Representative Costa, who identifies strongly as Catholic, introduced the resolution, in her own words “on a whim” but was “excited” when it passed.

What a silly, stupid woman. Mr Ahlquist recently founded Humanists of Rhode Island which promotes a “godless philosophy based on reason and compassion.” The group has some meet-ups scheduled including tomorrow at 6pm, Monday, December 5, at Thee Red Fez, 49 Peck Street.

[CORRECTION: No meetup at the Fez tonight.]

(While we’re at it, brickbats to the local media for fanning the flames of this non-story.)


filed under: Conservatives | Equal rights

NOM Defector Speaks Out

9AM ON 14/04/2011
BY Wesli Dymoke

gay rights protesters“I remember verbally asking myself, why am I here?” Thus began NOM member Louis Marinelli’s gradual but inexorable shift, from working against marriage equality through the nation’s highest-profile activist group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM) to abandoning that group to instead work for democratic equality. Specifically, it was during NOM’s “Summer for Marriage” summer tour last year, when he finally got to meet and speak to actual gay people, that he realized something wasn’t right.

Much of what he can tell us we already suspected, but the validation is gratifying: NOM is “just a small group of people, 20 or less,” mostly “fringe Catholics.” This much is easy to guess just from their rhetoric, with its powerful papist tone. (I attended a Catholic school for three years. It’s easy to spot, once you’re familiar with it. Of course, in heavily Catholic Rhode Island, it may be harder to distinguish from much of the background culture.) more »


filed under: First Amendment | Religion

Coolest Kid At Cranston West

4PM ON 05/04/2011
BY Beth Comery

prayer banner And smarter and more articulate than many of the adults connected to this story. According to the Providence Journal, the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of sophomore Jessica Alquist seeking the removal of a prayer banner from the wall of the school auditorium.  A Baptist minister, himself a Cranston West grad, as well as a rabbi from a Cranston Reform Congregation supported Jessica at a press conference on Monday, correctly seeing that this banner has crossed the line into state sponsorship of religion. Interestingly, another voice of reason in all this has been Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence who commented on the issue in the diocese’s weekly newspaper. (ProJo 3.19.11)

“[T]he rise and fall of religious faith, Christian or otherwise, in our nation or even in Cranston, doesn’t depend on the fate of the banner. If it has to be removed, so be it,” the bishop wrote. “Faith will survive and the free practice of religion will go on.”

In dismissing “arguments” that no one ever complained before, ACLU director Steven Brown correctly asserts that “It requires a great amount of courage to step forward.” In fact, the young Ms. Ahlquist reports she is already receiving threats. Atheists everywhere wish her well, and are left wondering once again — why are Christians so desperate to pray in school but won’t go to church on Sunday?


filed under: First Amendment | art

Open Studios: Pawtucket

9AM ON 08/09/2010
BY madam meow

hope artiste villageOn Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26 from 11 am and 5 pm, over 80 artists will be welcoming the public into their studios during open studios : pawtucket. Their studios are located in five historic mill buildings in Pawtucket — Blackstone Studios, Riverfront Lofts, Lorraine Mill, Hope Artiste Village, and the Mill at 545 Pawtucket Avenue.

Participating artists include sculptors, painters, printmakers, woodworkers, jewelers and metal workers, photographers, glass artists, ceramists, graphic designers, architects, and textile artists. The artists will be showing and talking about their work and several will be giving demonstrations of their processes. A listing of artists, directions, and map are available at open studios: pawtucket.

Come to find great one-of-a-kind pieces and SUPPORT THE ARTS!


filed under: First Amendment |

Net Neutrality — We’re For It

12AM ON 18/08/2010
BY Daily Dose

Not a good month for the First Amendment. The New York mosque story should have been a non-starter but the usual suspects, with assistance from the lazy news outlets, are whipping it up out of all proportion. But this ‘Net Neutrality’ issue has serious ramifications. Minnesota Senator Al Franken is calling it the “First Amendment issue of our time”. He’s been out in front of this, bringing it up last summer at the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, but the issue seems to have gained traction lately with MoveOn.org joining the fray. Franken also has a site where you can sign his petition. Better yet, contact your congressmen. (Franken seen here speaking at the Netroots Convention in July.)


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