YouTube Justice: Video helps hold Police Accountable/Maryland Story

Screen capture from YouTube video of motorcyclist Anthony Graber's arrest.

By THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Police in Maryland are in a tiff over an unflattering YouTube video, and prosecutors are working overtime to suppress it. Harford County prosecutors have filed felony charges against 25-year-old motorcyclist Anthony Graber, who taped a traffic stop in March and shared it on the popular website.

Mr. Graber was stopped by police after he made a high-speed trip down Interstate 95 with a video camera mounted on his helmet. Had the officers involved issued a simple speeding ticket and provided a stern roadside counseling session, the matter would have ended there. As seen by nearly a quarter-million viewers online, however, Maryland State Trooper Joseph David Uhler had other ideas. Clad in jeans, sneakers and a grey pullover, Trooper Uhler jumped out of his unmarked Chevy, gun drawn, yelling for Mr. Graber to “get off the motorcycle” – almost forgetting to identify himself as a peace officer. While drawing a deadly weapon over a minor traffic infraction may seem a bit extreme, Trooper Uhler kept it pointed at the ground with his finger off the trigger. The decision was made in the heat of the moment.

The truly outrageous conduct happened days later, after Trooper Uhler was “made aware” of the YouTube video and the negative comments from the public. State police responded with a dawn raid on Mr. Graber’s home, confiscating all computers, hard drives and video equipment from the residence. Mr. Graber was charged with three counts of felony wiretapping because he had failed to obtain permission to tape his own arrest.

Maryland’s wiretapping statute, intended to protect telephone conversations from eavesdroppers, requires consent from all parties to a private conversation. For the law to apply to a traffic stop, the officer working on a public highway would have to assert that he had an “expectation of privacy.” That would be a rather absurd position to hold in a state that uses speed cameras on its interstate highways to record and ticket passing motorists without their permission.

Mr. Graber is being represented by a legal team assembled by the Maryland branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. In an interview with The Washington Times, staff attorney David Rocah expressed concern over the implications of the case. “To use a statute designed to protect people’s privacy – including significantly their privacy from government intrusion – as a sword to suppress the truth about official behavior is really turning the statute on its head.”

The sword in question is particularly heavy in this case, as Mr. Graber faces up to 16 years in jail. Prosecutors went out of their way to include a charge based on an obscure 2006 law imposing sanctions on anyone who commits a crime with the intent to film it. The wiretap counts include a charge for the possession and use of a “surreptitious” wiretap device – although it is unclear how a large camera mounted on top of a helmet could be considered hidden.

While Mr. Graber is fortunate to have pro-bono legal assistance, it is troubling that police and prosecutors have the ability to lob such serious charges against citizens for exposing questionable official conduct to public scrutiny. The legislature should strip prosecutors of this authority by clarifying that the public has the right to use video to hold public servants accountable for their official conduct.

Tinseltown’s War on Christianity: Christophobia is the fashionable bigotry of our time

By Jeffrey T. Kuhner,

Anti-Christian bigotry is rearing its ugly head again. Comedy Central is developing a new animated series called “JC.” Its premise is that Jesus Christ, alienated from his aloof and bored father, God, goes to New York City and has adventures in the Big Apple. Christ will be shown as a deracinated, cynical city slicker who partakes of the temptations and weirdness of modern urban life. He will hang out with prostitutes and drug dealers. He will be shown experimenting with marijuana and gay sex. He will slaughter gangbangers in street fights, preferably using a machete. Christ meets “Pulp Fiction” – but in a cartoon. This is what Hollywood considers to be “entertainment.”

Yet, this is religious bigotry. Christians – and people of all faiths – should demand that it end. The show is a deliberate attempt to mock and smear the essence of Christianity: the divine nature of Christ. Its goal is to degrade Jesus into a modern-day sex-crazed, permissive and violent action figure. It is not just blasphemous, but morally repugnant and culturally perverse. It vilifies and completely distorts Christ – all for a few cheap laughs.

It is not the first time Comedy Central has depicted Jesus in a sick, twisted manner. The show “South Park” has repeatedly shown Christ in the vilest of ways: gawking at Internet pornography; slicing his own neck as blood profusely flows everywhere; acting as a ninja assassin who throws a dagger at the pope, splitting him in half; and defecating on former President George W. Bush and the American flag. For “South Park,” it is open season on Christianity.

However, when it comes to Islam, Comedy Central is silent. It has never openly mocked the Prophet Muhammad or caricatured him for shock value. In fact, it practices self-censorship for fear of offending Muslims. For example, for the 200th episode of “South Park,” the show’s producers sought to make fun of Muhammad in a bear suit. The outcry from Muslim rights groups forced the show to delete the offensive scene.

There is a blatant double standard. Islam cannot be ridiculed or attacked, but Christianity can – often and egregiously. Hollywood’s hypocrites understand that Muhammad is off-limits for one reason: the fear of a fatwa, an Islamic religious decree authorizing the murder of anyone defaming the image of the Muslim prophet. Hollywood liberals are cowards who pick on Jesus because they know Christians will do nothing. They often passively stand by and allow their Savior to be crucified culturally.

Our progressive elites keep saying – ad nauseam – that Islam is a “religion of peace.” The fact that there are millions of Islamic extremists who embrace jihad and terror, using the Koran as the theological basis for a holy war against the West, is irrelevant to most secular liberals. Their dogma – multiculturalism – demands that they deny this fundamental reality. They prefer to adhere to an ideological fantasy.

The true religion of peace, however, is Christianity. There are no Catholic nuns hijacking planes and slamming them into buildings. There are no Protestant pastors strapping dynamite on their chests and blowing up innocent Muslim men, women and children. There are no Orthodox Christian bishops waxing eloquent about how the Bible justifies the slaughter of non-Christians. In short, Christianity does not seek to impose a world empire through the sword. Radical Islam does.

It is precisely, however, the Christian emphasis on nonviolence and peaceful religious co-existence that Hollywood has been exploiting. The producers at Comedy Central know one seminal fact: They can mock Jesus all they want – no Christian jihadist is going to blow them up. It is easy – and safe – to take pathetic potshots at Christ.

At its core, modern secular liberalism is based on a hatred of Christianity. For decades, militant liberals have sought to eradicate our Judeo-Christian heritage from the public square. Banning prayer in public schools, prohibiting the display of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms (the very foundations of Western ethics and law), sanctioning the mass murder of nearly 50 million unborn children through abortion, seeking to end the official celebrations of Christmas and Easter, pushing to make homosexual behavior morally acceptable and legalizing same-sex marriage – all of this constitutes a cultural war on Middle America and its traditional Christian faith.

Christophobia is the fashionable bigotry of our time. The bastion of this anti-Christianity is Hollywood. Take films such as “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons.” Their premise: The Catholic Church is a primitive, sinister and superstitious institution centered on a massive conspiracy at the heart of Christianity – the cover-up of the fact that Jesus was not celibate but married and was the father of numerous children. There is not a shred of evidence for this outrageous smear. But in Hollywood, this passes for courageous “art.”

Christians must vigorously defend their faith. If Comedy Central wants to make a series depicting Christ as a street hoodlum, that is its right. But it is also the right of Christians to be offended and to express their outrage. Freedom of speech cuts both ways. Christians should let it be known that they will boycott not just all of Comedy Central’s programs, but more important, all of its advertisers. Corporations that advertise on Comedy Central are either directly or indirectly sponsoring anti-Christian bigotry.

This will no longer be tolerated. Christians will be silent no more.

America Needs to Stand with Israel Now

Israel has come under attack yet again from leaders around the world who are calling the actions taken earlier this week by Israel’s military “criminal” and “inhuman.” When Israeli soldiers, enforcing a blockade put into place to stop arms and money from being smuggled into the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, stopped six flotillas headed towards Gaza to inspect their cargo, passengers on the final ship put up strong resistance by immediately attacking the soldiers upon their descent from a helicopter.

The soldiers were attacked with knives, clubs, and other weapons.‬‪ Video even shows the passengers throwing an Israeli soldier over the side of the ship.

Yet, that has not stopped the world from immediately rebuking Israel and demanding they make an apology for their actions, which were merely actions of self-defense.‬‪‬‪

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “regret” for those passengers who lost their lives in the struggle, but said the Israeli soldiers “had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed.” Reviewing the video evidence, it would be tough to make a case otherwise.‬‪‬‪
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When the ship was ultimately secured, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense officials “identified about 50 passengers on the ship who could have terrorist connections with global jihad-affiliated groups. The military also discovered a cache of bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles, as well as gas masks.” They also report that the suspected terror suspects “refused to identify themselves and were not carrying passports. Many of them were carrying envelopes packed with thousands of dollars in cash.”‬‪‬‪

Yet, despite these facts, the Obama Administration has decided to remain on the sidelines and leave Israel to face the world alone, effectively abandoning our longtime friend and ally when they need us the most. By the United States taking such an ambiguous position on these recent events, our mutual enemies will be emboldened, rather than deterred from further acts of aggression.‬‪‬‪

Knowing full well that Islamic radical factions and Iran are aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons while at the same time stating that Israel must be “wiped off the map,” the United States would be foolish to remain indifferent in this instance. It would simply be a reckless foreign policy position to take, and we must demand more of our government whose role it is to keep our nation safe and secure.‬‪‬‪

The United States has been blessed by a rich and shared history with Israel, and our alliance has secured for both its citizens a very safe and prosperous future. With that said, we have an opportunity now to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friend, our ally, Israel, and show our unwavering support.

Or, we can continue on the current path seemingly favored by this administration, one in which we view Israel as just one of several players in the Middle East, not exceptional, and not deserving of our full and unbridled backing.

I sincerely hope we choose the former, for a strong and vibrant Israel means a strong and vibrant America.

Cartoon courtesy of Brett Noel

THE GREATEST DANGER TO YOUR CHILDEN

While we are moaning about our $13 trillion debt, this is a great column from Caroline Baum at Bloomberg:

We feel for this mom whose work options are limited by the need to care for her 3-year-old daughter. We all know someone who has been left jobless, financially strapped and emotionally bereft by the recession. Yet, at the risk of sounding hard- hearted, the U.S. can’t afford to provide everyone with food, clothing and shelter, not to mention medical and child care, college tuition, a low-interest mortgage and a Social Security check until death.

As much as this single mom’s plight tugs at our heart strings, using deficit financing to provide her with government subsidized child care is dangerous to her child’s health. That child will have to shoulder the bill. That’s the pain we don’t feel or hear about; the pain that doesn’t make its way into news stories, at least not in human terms; the pain that’s no less real, just less pressing.

Do you get the point here?? Things may be a bit rough for us right now, but do you realize the burden we’re putting on our children to ease the pain for ourselves? Wouldn’t a loving parent suffer the pain right now so that their children might have a better life? The pain is no less real. It is a pain that doesn’t make the front page of the news. Forget swimming pools or choking hazards. Our federal debt may be the single greatest danger to your child’s health.

Israel, Disarmed

Charles Krauthammer

The world is outraged at Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Turkey denounces its illegality, inhumanity, barbarity, etc. The usual U.N. suspects, Third World and European, join in. The Obama administration dithers.

But as Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, writes, the blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel — a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing belligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets.

In World War II, with full international legality, the United States blockaded Germany and Japan. And during the October 1962 missile crisis, we blockaded (“quarantined”) Cuba. Yet Israel is accused of international criminality for doing precisely what John Kennedy did: impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry.

Oh, but weren’t the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel’s offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, be inspected for military materiél, and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza — as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza.

Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel’s inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas.

Israel has already twice intercepted weapons-laden ships from Iran destined for Hezbollah and Gaza. What country would allow that?

But even more important, why did Israel even have to resort to blockade? Because blockade is Israel’s fallback as the world systematically delegitimizes its traditional ways of defending itself — forward and active defense.

1. Forward defense: As a small, densely populated country surrounded by hostile states, Israel had, for its first half-century, adopted forward defense — fighting wars on enemy territory (such as the Sinai peninsula and Golan Heights) rather than its own.

Where possible (Sinai, for example), Israel has traded territory for peace. But where peace offers were refused, Israel retained the territory as a protective buffer zone. Thus Israel retained a small strip of southern Lebanon to protect the villages of northern Israel. And it took many losses in Gaza rather than expose Israeli border towns to Palestinian terror attacks.

But under overwhelming outside pressure, Israel gave it up. The Israelis were told the occupations were not just illegal but at the root of the anti-Israel insurgencies — and therefore withdrawal, by removing the cause, would bring peace.

Land for peace. Remember? Well, during the past decade, Israel gave the land — evacuating southern Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005. What did it get? An intensification of belligerency, heavy militarization of the enemy side, multiple kidnappings, cross-border attacks, and, from Gaza, years of unrelenting rocket attack.

2. Active defense: Israel then had to switch to active defense — military action to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat (to borrow President Obama’s description of our campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda) the newly armed terrorist mini-states established in southern Lebanon and Gaza after Israel withdrew.

The result? The Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza operation of 2008–09. They were met with yet another avalanche of opprobrium and calumny by the same international community that had demanded the land-for-peace Israeli withdrawals in the first place. Worse, the U.N.’s Goldstone report, which essentially criminalized Israel’s defensive operation in Gaza while whitewashing the casus belli — the preceding and unprovoked Hamas rocket war — effectively delegitimized any active Israeli defense against its self-declared terror enemies.

3. Passive defense: Without forward or active defense, Israel is left with but the most passive and benign of all defenses — a blockade to simply prevent enemy rearmament. Yet, as we speak, this too is headed for international delegitimization.

But, if none of these are permissible, what’s left?

Nothing. The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense.

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, six million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized, and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.