freedom of speech


A friend sent this to me, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how it can be legal.  Or constitutional.

Internet Free Speech Ruling Favors Burlington School Administrators

In a key ruling on Internet free speech, a federal judge has found that school officials were within their rights when they disciplined a Burlington high school student over an insulting blog post she wrote off school grounds.

Avery Doninger’s case has drawn national attention and raised questions about how far schools’ power to regulate student speech extends in the Internet age.

But in a ruling on several motions for summary judgment Thursday, U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz rejected Doninger’s claims that administrators at Lewis S. Mills High School violated her rights to free speech and equal protection and intentionally inflicted emotional distress when they barred her from serving as class secretary because of an Internet post she wrote at home.

Does he think they didn’t harm her? Or that the school didn’t violate her rights? Read on.

(more…)

Well I can’t go, but maybe you can.

CALLING STUDENTS AND YOUTH NATIONWIDE

 

Spring Break in Washington D.C. to End the Iraq Occupation

We invite you to invite yourself, your friends, and your peers to come to Washington D.C. to join youth and students from around the nation to

Break the War with Spring Break!
http://www.ourspringbreak.org

Come any time from March 7th to March 23rd to protest the Iraq War as it is forced into its sixth year. This spring our Generation steps up.

Events will include but are not limited to: Sit-Ins, Demonstrations, Marches, Rallies, Civil Disobedience, Music Performed by Head-Roc and Son of NUN and more

Spring break: one usually imagines these words screamed from bourbon filled mouths at a tacky beach resort. Let’s use this vacation as an opportunity to take concrete creative action to end this unjust war and show that we care.

Be There

Click facebook.com/group.php?gid=7034243829 to join the Facebook group!

Click groups.myspace.com/ourspringbreak to join the MySpace group!

Click www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7FheS2RFMs to see the YouTube video!

To organize for Our Spring Break, e-mail: contact@ourspringbreak.org

http://www.ourspringbreak.org

Our Spring Break is endorsed by: Artists Against the War, Backbone Campaign, Camp Casey Peace Institute, Campus Anti-War Network, CODEPINK Women for Peace, A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, United for Peace and Justice, AfterDowningStreet.org, The Critical Voice, Democrats.com, Grassroots America, Gold Star Families for Peace, Kennebunk Peace Department, Not In Our Name, Progressive Democrats of America, World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime

Update below!

Would someone please tell me why the story about Huckabee wanting to change the Constitution and start a theocracy here is NOT in regular newspapers? I am not allowed to use AlterNet or TPM or the blogs as sources for weekly “current events in politics” assignments. And if it isn’t even news for a high school history class, then it’s really not news for the American public!

Here’s what Google News Search had for the search terms huckabee “god’s standards” constitution:

Huckabee Advocates Changing the Constitution to Live By “God’s
AOL News Newsbloggers, VA – 1 hour ago
means what he says, he wants the turn the US into a Christian Taliban state, where we would be ruled by what Mike Huckabee believes is “God’s standards. .

Huck, the Constitution and ‘God’s standards’
MSNBC – Jan 15, 2008
WARREN, Mich. — Huckabee’s closing argument to voters here this evening featured a few new stories and two prolonged sections on illegal immigration and
Huckabee trades God for jobs in Michigan
Guardian Unlimited, UK – Jan 14, 2008
The former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee today discarded the emphasis on conservative social values that propelled him to victory in the Iowa caucuses
Huckabee, 3rd In Michigan, Looks Ahead To So. Carolina
WCPO, OH – Jan 15, 2008
By LIBBY QUAID, AP Writer LEXINGTON, SC (AP) — Mike Huckabee, nursing a second third-place finish in northern states, looked ahead to the South where he

Mike Huckabee Doesn’t Believe in Constitution
Stop the ACLU, PA – Jan 15, 2008
by Jay @ 9:42 pm on January 15, 2008. If I may quote a famouse liberal…”You say you wanna change the Constitution, well you know…we all wanna change your

Why not the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune or a newspaper my teacher accepts as real?!?!? Here’s what Huckabee ACTUALLY said:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

He’s a FFFFing candidate for President who has already won a state! Tell me why that this shouldn’t be front page news on all the newspapers this week.

Update: It IS in a real newspaper! Just not in the United States. The UK Guardian has the story.

bush's legacyIt seems that George W is concerned about his legacy, and he is talking to a biographer named Robert Draper:

In book, Bush peeks ahead to his legacy

In an interview with a book author in the Oval Office one day last December, President George W. Bush daydreamed about the next phase of his life, when his time will be his own.

The articles talks about these kinds of issues

First, Bush said, “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” With joint assets that have been estimated at as high as nearly $21 million, Bush added, “I don’t know what my dad gets – it’s more than 50-75” thousand dollars a speech, and “Clinton’s making a lot of money.”

Then he said, “We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” where he will be running what he called “a fantastic Freedom Institute” promoting democracy around the world. But he added, “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”

and

The transcripts and the book show Bush as being keenly interested in what history will say about his term despite his frequent comments to the contrary; as being in a reflective mode as his time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue dwindles; and, ultimately, as being at once sorrowful and optimistic – but virtually alone as commander in chief, and aware of it.

Here is the worst line in the whole article:

And in apparent reference to the invasion of Iraq, he continued, “This group-think of ‘we all sat around and decided’ – there’s only one person that can decide, and that’s the president.”

HE just wants to make money, but I think that his real legacy will include these:

  1. a million people dead because of wars that we started
  2. 3000 dead at Ground Zero, flight 93 and the Pentagon, with bin Ladin still on the loose and not even a suspect by the CIA
  3. an unsolved anthrax terrorism case that killed five people
  4. increased opium exports all around the world
  5. privatization of everything from highways to schools to prisons hospitals to the maintenance of Walter Reed hospital and rehab
  6. many millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans with no access to decent health care when they need it
  7. the drowning of a city and a whole section of another state
  8. hard times for poor people, and a whole lot more poor people
  9. most of his administration resigning on him, and some of them being investigated and tried and convicted for crimes
  10. having the whole world hate us
  11. almost (I hope) starting a war with Iran
  12. stealing elections
  13. having hookers in the white house pretending to be reporters
  14. the giant corporations having a super time while the planet heats up and regular people suffer
  15. high gas prices and high prices to heat houses
  16. spying on Americans without a warrant or even telling the FISA court
  17. locking up Americans for years without a trial
  18. locking up thousands of other people in torture camps with no lawyers and no rights
  19. making students only learn stuff that is tested in April and not the important things in each subject

I bet George won’t talk about those things when he has speaking tours. (He’ll get more for one talk than my whole family has in a year!) What do you think his legacy will be? Can someone please call the Hague?

Like most of my political posts, this is cross-posted at
Political Teen Tidbits and at YouThinkLeft.

TV clipartThink Progress has a post up called

If It’s Sunday, It’s Karl Rove

and in it they have a list of questions that they want the talk show hosts to ask Rove. Here’s the list:

In addition to those, I think they should also ask him about these things:

  • Who Jeff Gannon was spending nights with in the White House?
  • Is George Bush drinking or doing drugs?
  • Who is the real president, Bush or Cheney?
  • Why did you decide to leave now?
  • What gave you the idea that there are no rules for you and your friends?
  • Why did you decide Congress doesn’t matter anymore?
  • Did you rig the voting machines?
  • Don’t you feel guilty destroying the country like this?

What else would you ask him?

Am I the only one that is not surprised by this headline? Or the details? People a lot older than I am seem very surprised that the government is behaving like this, but kids are used to having no privacy and no personal freedom. So, if they can take this from Americans now and patriotic older Americans (who expect the constitution to be in force) get upset, what will it take to upset my generation?

Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen
Law Enforcement Getting New Access To Secret Imagery
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 16, 2007; A01

The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as
early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law
enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance.

Administration officials say the program will give domestic security and emergency preparedness agencies new capabilities in dealing with a range of threats, from illegal immigration and terrorism to hurricanes and forest fires. But the program, described yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, quickly provoked opposition from civil liberties advocates, who said the government is crossing a well-established line against the use of military assets in domestic law enforcement.

Although the federal government has long permitted the use of spy-satellite imagery for certain scientific functions — such as creating topographic maps or monitoring volcanic activity — the administration’s decision would provide domestic authorities with unprecedented access to high-resolution, real-time satellite photos.

They could also have access to much more. A statement issued yesterday by the Department of Homeland Security said that officials envision “more robust access” not only to imagery but also to “the collection, analysis and production skills and capabilities of the intelligence community.”

impeachThis is from Democrats.com:

Ten Reasons to Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney

I ask Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for the following reasons: 1. Violating the United Nations Charter by launching an illegal “War of Aggression” against Iraq without cause, using fraud to sell the war to Congress and the public, misusing government funds to begin bombing without Congressional authorization, and subjecting our military personnel to unnecessary harm, debilitating injuries, and deaths.

2. Violating U.S. and international law by authorizing the torture of thousands of captives, resulting in dozens of deaths, and keeping prisoners hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

3. Violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel.

4. Violating the Geneva Conventions by targeting civilians, journalists, hospitals, and ambulances, and using illegal weapons, including white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and a new type of napalm.

5. Violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant.

6. Violating the Constitution by using “signing statements” to defy hundreds of laws passed by Congress.

7. Violating U.S. and state law by obstructing honest elections in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.

8. Violating U.S. law by using paid propaganda and disinformation, selectively and misleadingly leaking classified information, and exposing the identity of a covert CIA operative working on sensitive WMD proliferation for political retribution.

9. Subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a “Unitary Executive Theory” giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

10. Gross negligence in failing to assist New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, in ignoring urgent warnings of an Al Qaeda attack prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and in increasing air pollution causing global warming.

Buzzflash is having a contest (with cash prizes!) to list the
“Top 10 Reasons to Impeach Bush and Cheney”.

And here is one from AfterDowningStreet:

 

Accountability Demands Impeachment
Marcel J. Harmon, Ph.D.

I’m outraged – again.

I recently finished reading Seymour Hersh’s piece in the June 25th New Yorker on Army General Antonio Taguba’s investigation and resulting report regarding the Abu Ghraib scandal. In the third to last paragraph, Hersh quotes Taguba as follows: “’There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff’ – the explicit images – ‘was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.’ He [Taguba] said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.”

As I’ve done so many times before, I wondered again how this administration has managed to leave its six-year wake of political, social, economic, and environmental damage, in such an arrogant and incompetent manner, without more of a demand for accountability. I turned to my wife and again asked how we could begin impeachment proceedings against a president who lied about having sex, yet let the George W. administration skate.

But my wife simply replied, “I’m not going to waste my energy and time on this when nothing will get done – I’m just not going to get outraged.”

How many times have I heard others express the same sentiment? How many times have I let my own outrage fizzle as the day-to-day issues of life take over? The all-encompassing daily grind, our culture of consumption, and mind-numbing 24/7 mass media – all act as a distraction to the benefit of those in power. And the growing divide between the have and have-nots only magnifies our day-to-day struggle, further distracting us from the bigger picture. The corporate sector implicitly and explicitly promotes this for it’s own benefit, via corporate lobbying and huge political donations to both Democratic and Republican candidates.

But if any administration has deserved to be held accountable, it is this one.

The Bush administration started a war of choice in Iraq due to dubious intelligence and poor reasoning at best, and at worst by outright lying to the American public and bullying its critics. Our resulting role as the aggressor and extreme mismanagement of the war has taken the lives of US and coalition soldiers, private contractors, and countless Iraqi civilians. It has cost us over $500 billion, greatly reduced out standing in the world, functioned as a prime recruiting device for terrorists across the globe, and arguably made the world a less safe place to be.

Where is your outrage?

And what about Osama Bin Laden? Why has this administration failed to bring the architect of 9/11 to justice? The fiasco in Iraq has distracted us from bringing in the man who brought down the twin towers.

Where is your outrage?

This administration, through its placement of woefully unqualified individuals in charge of FEMA, it’s failure to grasp prior warnings, and lack of a quick initial reaction, greatly bungled the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf region.

Where is your outrage?

This administration’s misrepresentation of scientific data for its own agenda – its utter disregard for science – has delayed a proper US response to global warming. It has stymied stem-cell research, marginalized the position of Surgeon General, and may severely impact the recruitment of young people into the sciences for years to come.

Where is your outrage?

The administration was, at the very least, indirectly involved in the outing of a CIA agent, an act that when done knowingly is a criminal violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. The one bit of accountability that emerged from this scandal – the conviction and sentencing of Scooter Libby for lying to prosecutors – was muted after the president commuted his sentence.

And the list goes on. Yet Speaker Pelosi and other prominent democrats have said that impeachment is “off the table.” Why? Because it’s a “waste of time?” Or does it have more to do with political inconvenience?

Holding those in power accountable for their actions is critical for maintaining a functioning democracy. It can be messy. It can be painful. But it must be done – to remind our elected officials that they ultimately answer to the American public, and not to powerful corporate interests, not to the demands of their own egos, and certainly not to a personal ideology based on a narrow perception of God.

The outrage is growing. A July 6th pole by the American Research Group indicates that 45 percent of Americans favor initiating impeachment proceedings against the president, and 54 percent favor impeaching the vice president. Congress could very well act on this, but it’s unlikely unless we demand this of our elected officials.

Where is your outrage?

bong hits 4 jesus

bong hits for Jesusbong hits for Jesus

We high school and middle students in the United States lost a good chunk of our ability for free expression.

The case is described here, and is summarized like this:

A former high school student has lost his case in what is the US Supreme Court’s first major ruling on students’ free speech rights in almost 20 years.

What should we do? Should we all post banners like mine on our websites and myspace and facebook? Should we make t-shirts and all wear them to school the first day? What’s best?

Please leave a comment.

6/26, 5:45 pm

UPDATE: some suggestions from my Facebook Friends:

 

 

John

 

Is there a larger issue you can tie into? I get that this isn’t about Joseph Frederick’s silly sign but a much deeper issue – how do you get at that? Or do you need to tie it in to larger issues about speech, privacy, human rights, the bill of rights, etc.?

I think if you tie it together, you have a better shot of mobilizing, IMHO.

 

 


 

Petrocelli

 

Freedom of speech cases have had some extraordinary rulings, although probably not in this SCOTUS.

I would encourage you to dig – ask the many legal minds at FDL or your librarian – for guidance on this and write to show how more perverse cases have been ruled on differently.

When you run for office, I’m coming down to America to help your campaign !!!

 

 

Christina

 

Cassie … keep an eye on anything the ACLU might plan – when my son was in high school and the Communications Decency Act was in play, the ACLU sued and won … and they needed a few under 18’s to represent the people affected and Kit was one http://www.aclu.org/privacy/speech/15499prs19960318.html

I’d contact them and see if they are doing anything similar – of course, it is difficult to do anything once SCOTUS has decided.

 

 

 

 

Suzanne

Cassie
What is the larger issue? Perhaps reading Talk Left (link: http://www.talkleft.com/story/2007/6/25/132410/220) post on the issue will help ya find the way. The comments in the thread are interesting 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rayne

 

Hey Cassie…I think you start small while you do research. Make black armbands with the number 1 stenciled in white but crossed out with international symbol for no in red over the top (mourning the death of the First Amendment for youth). Find folks who think like you do about this SCOTUS decision and ask them to wear armbands in solidarity.

I’d like to recommend a book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell; it will help you understand how to get an idea to catch on like wildfire. For instance you’ll need to identify the “connectors” in your school who think like you, along with “mavens” or early adopters. Once they are on board, you need to have enough armbands or whatever else you decide on short notice.

Go for it. I know I’d help my kids if they decided to do this.

 

 

 

 

 

Bob S

 

Cassie,
Excellent project! First Amendment issues are always good to examine and dramatize. Are any of your friends into street theater? What’s jumping into my mind right now is *Mime* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mime_artist). Maybe two teens talking to each other and the mime prancing around them providing “commentary”?

But also, maybe turn it into a class project. Ask your social science teacher (You have one, don’t you?) or maybe the Speech coach on your debate team (does your school have one?) about your interest in First Amendment issues. Emphasize this as an educational issue, and you can probably get a sympathetic hearing. You can get the focus on things that your friends care about, exploring the boundaries of what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable.

Keep us informed about whatever you come up with!

 

Mime artist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M…

A mime artist is someone who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art. In earlier times, in English, such a performer was referred to as a mummer. Miming is to be distinguished from silent comedy, in which the artist is a seamless character in a film or sketch.

 

 

 

Giovanni

 

Cassie, In addition to Raynes “connectors” suggestion. May I ask if you know a few friends in your school who cross the lines of friendship… with jocks or preppies or drama /artist types etc…

Any of those folks who are interested in taking action would be who you could rally for support first and they will bring more into the fold quickly.. don’t be afraid to ask, remember its really not about you…but the ideas.. so don’t get stuck on new ideas you don’t like.. if they arent good they will most likely fall flat soon enough.. BTW I ran for office at the ripe old age of 19… so no more of that 2032 malarkey! 🙂

Also.. select one two or three causes at first and narrow it down for clearer focus as soon as your first few friends join your motivation…jmho I have watched groups spread thin quickly… marathon not a sprint etc etc

You go girl!

 

 


 

Terry

 

How about GNOB hits for Jesusa?

 

 

 


 

Bob S

 

Maybe I should elaborate on my suggestion of Mime and street theater. Here’s an idea for a 2-person show:
*One person wears a banner saying “First Amendment”
*Second person is a mime wearing a banner saying either Supreme Court or SCOTUS or maybe “School Official”.

The First Amendment person starts off talking (making a speech) normally, while the Mime stands nearby, looking relaxed and unconcerned. But then the First Amendment student starts to say things that are a bit edgy but not over the line. At each edgy comment, the Mime perks up, listens carefully (exaggerated poses leaning an ear towards the speaker, open hand near ear to hear better, face perked up in wide-eyed attention), and then as speaker starts crossing the line, the Mime gets increasingly agitated, wagging a”no, no, no!” finger silently at the speaker. This climaxes with the First Amendment student holding up a “Boxx Hits for Jesus” sign, at which the mime throws a conniption, racing around,jumping up and down, trying to cover up the sign or trying (silently, of course) to get the First Amendment student to put his sign away.

Of course this can be dramatised further at the climax (when the sign “Boxx hits for Jesus” is held up, 1-2 people with suits come charging in, take the sign away and throw it face down on the ground, or tear it up.

It can be a lot of fun to stage this kind of street theater, and the “plot” can be ad libbed, stretched, or cycled, depending on the audience. “Stretched” means you flirt with confrontation multiple times to engage people’s interest before springing the climax.

This provides the students with an opportunity to explore the idea of “what can I actually say, or what kinds of signs can I display, in public?”

freedom of the pressHave you seen this story anywhere? If the media in the United States don’t publish and insist on talking about stories like this, how will the rest of us even know that our freedom is under attack? Where are the defenders of the Constitution? I read a LOT of news and listen to political talk radio, and I never heard about this incident until I read it on someone else’s blogVideo here.

Reporter Arrested on Orders of Giuliani Press Secretary Charged with Criminal Trespass Despite Protest of CNN Staff and Official Event Press Credentials at GOP Debate in New Hampshire


Aaron Dykes & Alex Jones / Jones Report | June 5, 2007

 

Manchester, NH – Freelance reporter Matt Lepacek, reporting for Infowars.com, was arrested for asking a question to one of Giuliani’s staff members in a press conference. The press secretary identified the New York based reporter as having previously asked Giuliani about his prior knowledge of WTC building collapses and ordered New Hampshire state police to arrest him.

Jason Bermas, reporting for America: Freedom to Fascism, confirmed Lepacek had official CNN press credentials for the Republican debate. However, his camera was seized by staff members who shut off the camera, according to Luke Rudkowski, also a freelance Infowars reporter on the scene. He said police physically assaulted both reporters after Rudkowski objected that they were official members of the press and that nothing illegal had taken place. Police reportedly damaged the Infowars-owned camera in the process.

 

Reporters were questioning Giuliani staff members on a variety of issues, including his apparent ignorance of the 9/11 Commission Report, according to Bermas. The staff members accused the reporters of Ron Paul partisanship, which press denied. It was at this point that Lepacek, who was streaming a live report, asked a staff member about Giuliani’s statement to Peter Jennings that he was told beforehand that the WTC buildings would collapse.

Giuliani’s press secretary then called over New Hampshire state police, fingering Lepacek.

You ever heard of this? I can’t find it anywhere besides Air America, but I really like it. Please email your representatives and senators and tell them to please put their money where their mouth is when it comes to “support the troops”.

“A Soldier’s Bill of Rights”

Unless a military action involving American troops is authorized, as called for in the Constitution, by a vote of Congress, the following rights shall, in all cases, be afforded to all members of the military of The United States.

1. SAFETY: As the Department of Defense has full authority to purchase the best state of the art weaponry, regardless of cost and the impact on the national treasury, to fulfill its mission, so too shall American servicemen and women be entitled to the best, state of the art armor and other protection, for themselves and each and all of their vehicles, regardless of cost.

2. PAY: All servicemen and women defending our nation shall be entitled to a salary and all other benefits equivalent to that paid to private contractors performing similar service on behalf of The United States government or military.

3. LENGTH OF SERVICE: Unless a war is duly authorized, as required by The United States Constitution, the President does not have any authority to extend tours of duty for any and all servicemen and women, in any branch, beyond the original contract of such service.

4. DEPLETED URANIUM – No serviceman or woman shall be forced to use or be in the vicinity of weapons containing Depleted Uranium until and unless the Surgeon General of The United States declares that such weapons have no impact on the short or the long term health of the soldiers.

5. REHABILITATION – All soldiers who are injured in a war not specifically authorized by Congress shall be entitled to the best, state of the art short term and long term care available anywhere in The United States, regardless of cost. Any funding requests necessary to achieve such level of care from the Veterans Administration shall receive the highest priority.


The US is number 1 !!!! (Is that a good thing?))

There is a new list out of all of the things that United States leads in. Unfortunately, the list excludes things like health care, education, press freedom and income equality. Instead, consider these items:

First in oil consumption:

The United States burns up 20.7 million barrels per day, the equivalent of the oil consumption of China, Japan, Germany, Russia, and India combined.

First in carbon dioxide emissions:

Each year, world polluters pump 24,126,416,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment. The United States
and its territories are responsible for 5.8 billion metric tons of
this, more than China (3.3 billion), Russia (1.4 billion) and India
(1.2 billion) combined.

First in external debt:

The United States owes $10.040 trillion, nearly a quarter of the global debt total of $44 trillion.

First in military expenditures:

The White House has requested $481 billion for the Department of
Defense for 2008, but this huge figure does not come close to
representing total U.S. military expenditures projected for the coming
year. To get a sense of the resources allocated to the military, the
costs of the global war on terrorism, of the building, refurbishing, or
maintaining of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and other expenses also need to be factored in. Military analyst Winslow Wheeler did the math recently: “Add $142 billion to cover the anticipated costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; add $17 billion requested for nuclear weapons costs in the Department of Energy; add another $5 billion for miscellaneous defense costs in other agencies … and you get a grand total of $647 billion for 2008.”

Taking another approach to the use of U.S. resources, Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Business School lecturer Linda Bilmes added to known costs of the war in Iraq invisible costs like its impact on global oil prices as well as the long-term cost of healthcare for wounded veterans and came up with a price tag of between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion.

If we turned what the United States will spend on the military in 2008 into small bills, we could give each one of the world’s more than 1 billion teenagers and young adults an Xbox 360 with wireless controller (power supply in remote rural areas not included) and two video games to play: maybe Gears of War and Command and Conquer would be appropriate. But if we’re committed to fighting obesity, maybe Dance Dance Revolution would be a better bet. The United States alone spends what the rest of the world combined devotes to military expenditures.

First in weapons sales:

Since 2001, U.S. global military sales have normally totaled between
$10 and $13 billion. That’s a lot of weapons, but in fiscal year 2006,
the Pentagon broke its own recent record, inking arms sales agreements worth $21 billion. It almost goes without saying that this is significantly more than any other nation in the world.

First in sales of surface-to-air missiles:

Between 2001 and 2005, the United States delivered 2,099 surface-to-air missiles to nations in the developing world, 20 percent more than Russia, the next-largest supplier.

First in sales of military ships:

During that same period, the United States sent 10 “major surface combatants” like aircraft carriers and destroyers to developing nations. Collectively, the four major European weapons producers shipped 13. (And we were first in the anti-ship missiles that go along with such ships, with nearly double [338] the exports of the next largest supplier Russia [180]).

First in military training:

A thoughtful empire knows that it is not enough to send weapons; you have to teach people how to use them. The Pentagon plans on training the militaries of 138 nations in 2008 at a cost of nearly $90 million. No other nation comes close.

First in private military personnel:

According to bestselling author Jeremy Scahill, there are at least 126,000 private military personnel deployed alongside uniformed military personnel in Iraq alone. Of the more than 60 major companies that supply such personnel worldwide, more than 40
are U.S.-based.

And here are some things where we are no longer #1:

Not first in automobiles:

Once, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford ruled the domestic and global roost, setting the standard for the automotive industry. Not any more. In 2006, the United States imported almost $150 billion more in vehicles and auto parts than it sent abroad. Automotive analyst Joe Barker told the Boston Globe, “It’s a very tough environment” for the so-called Detroit Three. “In times of softening demand, consumers typically will look to brands that they trust and rely on. Consumers trust and rely on Japanese brands.”

Not even first in bulk goods:

The Department of Commerce
recently announced total March exports of $126.2 billion and total
imports of $190.1 billion, resulting in a goods and services deficit of
$63.9 billion. This is a $6 billion increase over February.

Like most of my political posts, this is cross-posted at Political Teen Tidbits and at YouThinkLeft.

censorshipOur military spends a lot of time defending our rights and our constitution, or so they tell us. Soldiers don’t have freedom of speech because of the code of military conduct, but they used to at least have freedom of the press. There have been reports from veterans of the Iraq Occupation that they had difficult accessing certain (liberal) websites or listening to liberal radio from Iraq, but on Tuesday, the Pentagon made censorship an official and public policy, banning access to YouTube and MySpace among other websites. According to the AP,

Members of the military can still access the sites on their own computers and networks, but Defense Department computers and networks are the only ones available to many soldiers and sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ban does not affect the Internet cafes that soldiers in Iraq use that are not connected to the Defense Department’s network.

If this ban stands, there will be NO VIDEO AT ALL from Iraq shown to the rest of the world because of a reporting/photography ban by the Iraqi government.

A new Iraqi government policy implemented this month bans news photographers and camera operators from filming bombing scenes, meaning video taken by citizens and uploaded to YouTube could become the only imagery the public sees of such devastation.

Today, however, the people who started YouTube are fighting back. They are challenging the military’s contention that the ban reflected a bandwidth issue (rather than censorship of news to or from the occupation zone).

How is this different from the ban on showing flag-draped coffins on TV in the U.S.?

flag draped coffins

Sometimes it is hard to remember what rights our military is fighting to protect.