Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.” ~ Albert Einstein

A Member of the Patriot Group Riders in Front of WBC Protestors

“Bigotry dwarfs the soul by shutting out the truth.” ~ Edwin Hubbel Chapin

So Kate Gosselin is having temper tantrums on “Dancing With the Stars.” Kim Kardashian is tweeting pictures of herself in a bikini. Madonna wants her daughter to wear more conservative clothing.  

WBC Protestors: Lunatics Laughing

Meanwhile, back in the real world, a 15-year-old New Jersey girl sold her 7-year-old stepsister to a group of men for sex. We’re seeing new allegations that then-Cardinal Ratzinger failed to defrock an American priest who allegedly molested 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin. And an appellate court ruled that Albert Snyder has to pay the legal fees for Westboro Baptist Church to the tune of over $16,000.  

I’m sorry. What? Westboro Baptist Church, that hate group that protests at fallen soldiers’ funerals? That group of lunatics who rejoiced in the deaths resulting from 9/11? That Westboro Baptist Church?  

Let me see if I have this correct:  

  • Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was killed in Iraq, and his body was sent home for burial.
  • Members of Phelps’s group waved signs saying that “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates the USA” at Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006 because “military deaths are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.”
  • According to a website created in Snyder’s honor, his relatives filed the civil lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church to “bring an end to the reign of terror and abuse that they inflicted” upon grieving families of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Albert Snyder sued Westboro and was awarded $11 million (later reduced to $5 million) in damages by a federal jury in Baltimore because the group “intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family.” This award was overturned on appeal. The case is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  •  Now, Snyder’s father, Albert has been ordered to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas for legal costs.

Those are the most basic facts. What you have to infer, of course, is the magnitude of the most recent court ruling. Consider, Phelps and his band of haters make it their mission to protest at military funerals. They wave hate-filled placards at the mourners: “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Really?  They sing songs of hate at the top of their voices all in the name of their god, who they say supports their actions.  

Now let me pause here. I am no Biblical scholar, but I have read many parts of the Bible. I do know that the god in the old testament is a more wrathful being than the loving god of the new testament. There is conflict there, and anyone who wants to find verses to support his or her claims can likely do so with enough searching. Still, I find it truly abhorrent that these nut cases are using god as their rallying cry for hate-inspired protests. However, the WBC contends that “God’s hatred is one of His holy attributes,” which in their small minds completely justifies their actions.   

“Too small is our world to allow discrimination, bigotry and intolerance to thrive in any corner of it, let alone in the United States of America.” ~ Eliot Engel

Shirley Phelps-RoperOkay. We’re back to that whole First Amendment thing, free speech for all no matter how nasty, racist, conservative, liberal, whatever. I get it. I really do. I support your right to protest. Hell, I even acknowledge that the Klan has the right to protest. But protest at a funeral? What happened to common decency?  

Have we become such a myopic society of us versus them that we no longer acknowledge even the barest niceties, you know, the right to have a funeral in peace? I mean, and this is a bit off subject but still on the subject of hate-filled protests, when we have been reduced to a society in which people see nothing wrong with spitting on members of Congress (and no, that wasn’t made up. I watched the video showing the spray of spit), what kind of society have we become?  

Of course members of Congress aren’t sanctified, nor are they above anyone else. Having said that, I don’t believe that it’s all right to spit on anyone. That’s the way that my parents raised me. Were these people raised in barns near donkeys?  

But back to my main point: Losing a family member to war, however that person died, is unbearably hard. Burying a child is beyond painful. Imagine, if you will, for one moment what it must have felt like for Mr. Snyder and his family and friends to have to be escorted into the service entrance of the church so that they didn’t have to see the protest signs. Imagine what it must feel like to kiss the coffin of your son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, while outside litanies of “God Hates Fags” are being screamed across the street.  

No one should have to imagine that.  

“Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

WBC Protestors: Stupidity Speaks for Itself

A little background on WBC for those of you who may not know a lot about this fringe group. Westboro Baptist Church is a small, homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that stages protests all around the country. The group pickets any institutions or individuals who they believe are against god’s law, and they believe that their protests are a form of preaching to a country that is doomed.  

Since they are incorporated as a church, WBC is non-profit. It should be pointed out that WBC has no official affiliation with mainstream Baptist organizations and considers itself an “old school” or “primitive” Baptist church, i.e., belief in man’s total depravity and limited atonement for the elected.  

WBC targets include “schools the group deems to be accepting of homosexuality; Catholic, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations that WBC feels are heretical; and funerals for people murdered or killed in accidents like plane crashes and for American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.” WBC also protests at “dozens of Jewish institutions around the country, from Israeli consulates to synagogues to Jewish community centers, distributing anti-Semitic fliers to announce planned protests at these sites.”  

The only time that WBC has been convinced not to protest is when a local radio station in Pennsylvania offered the group airtime in exchange for not protesting at the funeral of the Amish schoolchildren who were gunned down in 2006 at the West Nickels Mine School.  

“Nothing dies so hard, or rallies so often, as intolerance.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Patriot Guard Riders Line the Street of Funeral Procession

Now I would be remiss in this post if I did not take a few lines to acknowledge the Patriot Group Riders as they have been instrumental in shielding grieving families from Phelps and his hate-mongers. I pulled the following from a letter of appreciation to the PGR from a Sergeant after learning of what the PGR does:  

“One thing we didn’t anticipate was the disrespect and hatred shown by the Phelps church group . . . protesting at our fallen brothers’ funerals, waving the banners and signs that they wave so ignorantly and so proud.  The first time I read about that in the ‘Stars and Stripes,’  I had to read it again, because I couldn’t imagine anyone being so hateful and disrespectful.  I just about cried after reading the article . . . Then, a few days later, there was an article about this group of bikers who were now putting themselves as a barrier between the protesters and the grieving families of our fallen soldiers.  I couldn’t believe that when I read it, either . . . the feeling we all felt that someone was actually doing something to counter the protesters was the best feeling I can’t even describe.  I was filled with pride to know that fellow Americans were giving up their time, honoring our fallen, regardless of whether they knew them or not, and providing a barrier from the protesters for the families grieving.”   

According to their website, the Patriot Group Riders have two objectives in their mission when attending funeral services of fallen American service men and women:  

  1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
  2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

I have seen news footage of these awesome men and women and how they use their motorcycles and the American Flag to shield families from the likes of WBC. I am including a YouTube clip that I hope you take a few moments to watch. I know that watching the clip really helped to quell some of the intense rage that I was feeling immediately after reading about the injustice served up to Mr. Snyder by the courts.   

(If you are interested in making a donation to Mr. Snyder to offset the fine, please visit matthewsnyder.org. Since the announcement about the ruling, Snyder and his family have received thousands of e-mails and letters of support, as well as financial pledges to help pay the legal fees associated with filing a Supreme Court brief, as well as the outrageous fine.) 

  

I am also including a more tongue-in-cheek protest of WBC by Michael Moore . . . “Fred (knows) a lot about dog vomit.”  

  

 

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

WARNING: This blog is longer than my longest blongs, but the information that it contains needs to be read by anyone who cares about freedom of speech.

freedom-of-speech-collage

Images of Freedom of Speech by L. Liwag

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” ~ Charles de Montesquieu

Outing Mudflats: Doogan is a DoDo

I just found out from visiting one of my regular sites, WillPen’s World, that something truly incredible has happened to one of my favorite blogs: Mudflats (http://www.themudflats.net). I’m sure that many of you probably read Mudflats as it is a very well-written, informative political blog. In fact, Mudflats was voted best political blog of 2008, and I helped to put it there, me along with thousands of other faithful readers.

However, I recently learned of something very dismaying: Representative Mike Doogan of Anchorage, Alaska has gone out of his way to out the writer of Mudflats. That’s right, he spent his time finding out the real name of the author so that he could out her.

Here is what Doogan had to say in outing this blogger:

Anonymous Blogger Anonymous No More

The identity of the person who writes the liberal Democratic Mudflats blog has been secret since the blog began, protected by the Anchorage Daily News, among others. My own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name. So I was interested to learn that the woman who writes the blog is Anchorage resident Jeanne _____.*

Best wishes,

Apparently, all of this ill-conceived, pompous drivel was a result of  Doogan’s unhappiness with the Mudflats post on the politician’s rude e-mails to his constituents and took it upon himself to find out the real identity of the popular blog’s moderator. How very mature of him.

“If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.” ~ Dee Hock

As Dawn Teo reveals in her post on HuffingtonPost.com about Doogan’s actions, ” He had saved up all of the emails from constituents on the Troopergate issue, and in December he responded to all of them at once, CC’ing a list of about thirty perfect strangers together in one email, telling them,

Are you people nuts? You send me—and everybody else in the legislature, from the looks of things—Spam and then lecture me on email etiquette—as if there were such a thing? Here’s an etiquette suggestion: Abandon your phony names, do your own thinking and don’t expect everybody to share your obsessions.

doogan-who-me
Rep. Doogan: "Are you people nuts?"

Yes America, this is how an elected official actually responded to concerned constituents. I know that I would be supporting and campaigning for someone who addressed me in this fashion. Apparently, Doogan doesn’t care about being re-elected, or at least, that is how it appears. But what really torqued Doogan out of shape was when AKMuckRaker of Mudflats posted an entry in which Doogan’s rudeness is made public for all to see; in addition, the moderator (whose name I will not use out of respect for her desire for privacy, even though she has been outed), took Doogan to task for his lack of etiquette in e-mail.

Even though Mudflats was completely within its rights to voice opinions anonymously under the guise of AKMuckRaker, Doogan’s vanity got the best of him, and he made it his quest to find out the moderator’s name, even e-mailing people to try to get them to identify her. Of course, no loyal reader would reveal such information.

Obviously, Representative Doogan does not know his history. Consider the anonymous authors of The Federalist Papers—Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, who published their 85 letters using the name “Plubius.” Or how about Thomas Paine’s anonymously published Common Sense, or for that matter all of the work that Benjamin Franklin published under the pseudonym Silence Dogood. We’re talking about the nation’s founding fathers and favorite citizens. Doogan, in his self-righteous justification for outing the blog author, forgot one of the most important lessons of U.S. history: Opposing political views are what made this country.

“The framers [of the Constitution] knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.” ~ Hugo Black

What Doogan did not count on was the support that Mudflats enjoys nationwide, nor did he stop to consider that bloggers are a very steadfast and loyal group. We look out for our own as we realize that if something like this can happen to one blog, it can happen to all blogs. Bloggers come from all walks of life, countries near and far, different religious and political backgrounds, but we all realize that being able to write about issues that concern us is a precious right, one that we will not cede without a fight. 

As a former journalist, Doogan should have had better sense than to make public the name of someone who deliberately chose to remain anonymous. In fact, what Doogan did could be considered illegal as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court:

As JJEagleHawk pointed out in Daily KOS:

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that “an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning additions or omissions to the content of the publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” In a concurring decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote “we should determine whether the phrase ‘freedom of speech, or of the press,’ as originally understood, protected anonymous political leafleting. I believe that it did.” Please note that, in this same decision, Justice Stevens also said that anonymous speech protects “unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hand of an intolerant society.”

A lawyer who contacted Daily KOS made this very insightful point:

This is a violation of federal law and of the state common law right to privacy. The fact that he did it on state time and in his capacity is what is called “state action” for a section 1983 civil rights claim. The Mudflats blogger, who was absolutely entitled to comment on matters of public interest and equally entitled to do so anonymously, has a significant lawsuit against this clown . . . In addition to awarding damages, they also award attorneys’ fees. That is the only way to stop this sort of abuse of public position.

“I can remember when Democrats believed that it was the duty of America to fight for freedom over tyranny.” ~ Zell Miller

doogan-on-the-news
Doogan: "Who me?"

By the way, did Democrat Doogan use his state office and state computer in his search for vengeance? Was it on the time of the citizens of Anchorage that Doogan chose to behave like a schoolyard bully? How did he obtain this information? Did he use his political connections?

Important things that should make the people who elected this man to office might want to consider. And consider they are. I have read many blogs posts reacting to Doogan’s petty antics in which they promise to vote for anyone but Doogan and to offer monetary support to anyone willing to take on Doogan in the 2010 election. Count me in on that pool; I’ll add Doogan to Michele Bachman as people I will help to defeat even though they do not represent my state.

Fortunately, the support for Mudflats’ moderator has been very vocal and has not been limited to small-time bloggers. For example, Scout Finch on Daily KOS had this to say:

Whatever your reasoning, you’ve certainly caught our attention. And if you think we are going to scuttle back into the shadows and let this pass, you’ve got another thing coming. Your petty, vindictive, unprofessional, unethical, and perhaps even illegal actions are certain to come back to haunt you.

But one of the responses that really speaks to the heart of the matter is by DemFromCT in The Patrick Henry Press News:

I’m sure Alaskans can appreciate your focus on outing a blogger who is most known for exposing the hypocrisy, questionable ethics, and corruption of Alaskan officials. I’m sure they appreciate your focus on warring with bloggers instead of taking on the difficult economic and social issues Alaskans find themselves faced with this winter, including those who can’t afford to heat their homes. But, instead, here you are — gloating about your efforts to ruin somebody’s life.

For her part, the moderator of Mudflats was been extremely professional and considered in her response, especially considering that she is not the professional writer and Doogan was. Here is a sample of Mudflats’ comments in regards to the whole situation:

I was a bit surprised to see my real name, as you can imagine.  But after the initial surprise wore off, it really hit me.  This is an elected State Representative, of my own political party, who has decided that it’s not OK for me to control the information about my identity; that it’s not OK to express my opinion on my own blog without shouting from the rooftops who I am.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” ~ C. S. Lewis

I know that I am a bit late in joining the game, but I’ve never let that stop me before. What Representative Mike Doogan of Alaska did is reprehensible, but at the same time, it shows exactly how insecure he is.

I have enjoyed visiting Mudflats ever since I began blogging last year. During the election, it was the one source to which I turned to find out what was really  going on with the Governator. This blog has been an incredible resource, both through its moderator and through the comment threads. What Doogan did was unconscionable, not because we now know the author’s name as she should be proud of what she has created here, but because a politician should not have the time to go searching for a blogger’s identity.

doogan
Michael Doogan: Man of the People As Long As They Agree With Him

Politicians should be working on fixing this country, fixing their states. The economy is in the crapper, Doogan. Your ignoramus of a governor is going to refuse money from the Federal government without considering how much Alaska needs this support. As for yourself, look at your state and tell me that the time you spent in outing an intelligent, well-versed, source of news for thousands of people is more important than the bigger issues facing your constituents and all Americans right now.

Doogan, your priorities are incredibly out of whack. Oh, and about 2010? I wouldn’t count on it if I were you. Unfortunately for you and those of your ilk, bloggers have a very long reach, which too many politicians tend to forget.

See these other blogs for more information about Doogan:

http://www.themudflats.net/2009/03/27/in-exposing-the-identity-of-mudflats-rep-mike-doogan-exposes-himself/

http://progressivealaska.blogspot.com/2009/03/mike-doogan-outs-mudflats.html

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/3/28/714126/-Response-to-Rep.-Mike-Doogan

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/28/714053/-Open-Letter-to-Alaskan-Rep-Mike-Doogan

http://patrickhenrypress.info/?p=586150

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dawn-teo/famed-anonymous-anti-pali_b_180313.html

On The Wings of an Eagle*

golden-eagle

Golden Eagle in Flight

We Dare to Dream Again of Friendly Skies As We Give Thanks

Okay. I’m going to do it. I’m going to write a blog about what I’m thankful for. A Charlie Brown blog, if you will. I debated whether or not this subject matter would be too trite, too overdone in the blogging world, but then I decided that my cynicism would prevail, especially in light of my recent entries, which admittedly, have been a tad on the nostalgic side. I’ve decided to write about unlikely things for which we, as in the collective we, can be grateful, in spite of the dire times we seem to be facing.

Here goes:

  • The nation’s first president of color, a man of incredible presence, intelligence, and insight. I can only hope that the fates are good to him and surround him with good karma. If he runs his presidency with just one half of the calm, executive demeanor that surrounded his campaign, then there is hope that his White House will never be likened to a college fraternity without any adult supervision.
  • A new administration, one headed by a president who won’t mangle the English language. No matter what your political leanings are, you have to be grateful for a man who is articulate
  • An apparent real goal for an end to the Iraqi war, or at least a major draw down of troops in that country, even if it means that we will have an increase of troops in another country
  • An attempt to provide access to some kind of health insurance for everyone in the country, even if it takes a couple of years. Hillary Rodham Clinton first attempted this during Clinton’s first term in office and was roundly criticized for not sticking to her role as first lady. After that aborted attempt, nothing has ever been done nationally until now.
  • A chance to regain our status in the world as a nation that can be respected as a leader
  • A chance to turn our economy around and stop the practice of “Trickle Down Economics.” The plan, of course, was that everything would trickle down in an equitable manner. Um, so sorry, but WRONG. When Ronald Reagan took office, our country could be described as a diamond, with most of the country falling in the middle of the socio-economic ladder. What we have now is an hourglass, with almost no middle class, an upper class and a very bottom-heavy lower socio-economic part of the ladder. Anyone who tells you that America is a class-less society is still in their naive idealistic phase.
  • A commitment by an administration and apparently a nation to harness alternative energy and preserve resources. A long overdue wake-up call has finally been answered, and more and more people are doing what they can, in big ways and in small, to help the environment. As someone who has been recycling for over almost two decades, it is refreshing to see the changes all around. I don’t care if it’s trendy, as long as it makes an impact.
  • More awareness of post traumatic stress disorder as a real problem with far-reaching issues that can affect people for years
  • The fact that Sarah Palin and her family are back in Alaska, at least for most of the time, but the governator still can’t seem to find enough work to do as governor, so she hits the road every other week.
  • A big win in the House and Senate, but the pressure is on to deliver. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility Spider Man.
  • Law & Order, the original, is back on Wednesday nights.
  • Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC is kicking butt big time.
  • Virginia went blue for the first time since 1964, and Thelma Drake lost her seat in Congress to newcomer Glenn Nye thanks in large part to a grassroots effort.
  • The first amendment allows people like me to write things like this whenever I want, which still makes this the best country in the world in which to live.
  • colorado20river20from20deadhorse20point
    The Colorado River from Deadhorse Point
  • With any luck, President-elect Obama will be able to reverse some of the more egregious laws that Bush has signed into law, in particular, those that allow drilling near state parks in Utah and Colorado, and those that ease pollution laws. Because after all, it would be nice to leave a legacy to our children, you know, something like majestic trees, clean rivers, the Grand Canyon, some Golden Eagles, and maybe some uranium-free land. Or maybe I’m being naive and full of youthful idealism in spite of my age.
  • And finally, with any luck, the next few years we will see some glimpses of that hope we held onto so tightly when we stood in line to get into those rallies. When we stood at those rallies waiting to hear the words we needed to hear. When we heard those words of hope and better days and we actually allowed ourselves to dare to believe, even when our cynical hearts did not want to. Yes, we can dare to hope. Yes, we will believe.

These are the things that I am thankful for as an American this Thanksgiving. Perhaps I’ll write about what I’m thankful for personally later, or maybe not. But it’s nice to think that maybe this time next year, there will be a change a coming.

Peace be with you.

*On the Wings of an Eagle, song by John Denver