angrycatBecause I sat at the helm of my community college and university newspapers once upon a time, stuff like this tends to grind my gears.

According to the Orange County Register, the principal of Orange High School in Orange, Calif., stopped the distribution of a student magazine because it had a “gang-looking” tattoo on the cover and because of a Top 10 list of things to do before graduation that included a clothing-optional swim in the school pool.

I understand where maybe the Top 10 list could be seen as encouraging students to break school rules. But even when students volunteered to tear out those pages the principal still refused distribution because of the tattoo.

Was the principal wrong in doing this? I think so. But what do the legal guys have to say?

From the O.C. Register’s article :

“California has the strongest set of laws protecting student speech and student publications in the nation, said Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

State law allows school administrators to restrict student speech that is obscene, libelous or slanderous. They can also prohibit material that creates a ‘clear and present danger’ of inciting students to break the law, violate school regulations, or cause ‘substantial disruption’ of school operations.

That may apply to the Top Ten list, with its suggestions to skinny dip and skip school. But LoMonte said a judge might consider the list to be nothing more than satire, and therefore no real threat to school operations.

The tattoo cover and story appear to be ‘well within the protection’ of California law, LoMonte said. The magazine, he said, was ‘not promoting tattooing any more than informing people about a rash of fires is promoting arson.’ “

Luckily for the students, they have a wealth of resources now if they still want to continue publication, albeit in another medium.

If I were in the student editors’ position, as a “frak you” to the principal, I would take the PDFs for the magazine and publish them online through a site like Issuu, then invite members of the school community to comment on it through Facebook, MySpace or Twitter.

It won’t erase what the principal did, but at least the students would get a chance to showcase their work.

Read the story and take a look at photos of the magazine here.

The case is also highlighted at the The Student Press Law Center, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the California First Amendment Coalition and the Citizen Media Law Project.

Photo: zalgon / Flickr

Jonathan Mann committed himself to writing and posting a song a day to his YouTube channel. The inspirations for the songs cover such diverse topics as Battlestar Galactica, Israel and Palestine, and Tumblr.

And what was his inspiration April 19?

Why, the torture memos of course.

Mann took the text of a portion of the memos released last week and set them to music. The result is a somewhat peppy guitar and piano tune that sounds like an unsettling mix of a CNN news anchor, Jack Johnson and the Moldy Peaches. Throw in some air quotes ala Dr. Evil, a couple of tortured-looking grimaces, and a split screen and you have yourself a music video. Check it out.

(via BoingBoing)

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117048243_7cc6bb0b87The Obama administration today released previously undisclosed memos regarding the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency, but has decided not to go forward with the prosecution of CIA interrogators who performed the acts described in the documents.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a press release from the Department of Justice, stated that President Obama has stopped the use of the interrogation techniques described in the opinions. “We are disclosing these memos consistent with our commitment to the rule of law,” he stated.

From the press release:

“Holder also stressed that intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct.”

Holder further states that the government would provide no-cost legal representation to any employee in any state or federal judicial or administrative proceeding brought against the employee based on such conduct, and would also indemnify any employee for any monetary judgment or penalty ultimately imposed against him for such conduct and will provide representation in congressional investigations.

You can download the memos at the New York Times Web site. If you don’t want to download them on your own, you can read them at The Huffington Post, which is seemingly outsourcing the digging through them to its readership. And here’s a link to President Obama’s statement regarding the release of the memos.

Included in the documents is a memo published by the Office of Legal Counsel August 1, 2002 (under Jay Bybee and Chapman Law visiting professor John Yoo) which the New York Times had previously reported as “a legal authorization for a laundry list of proposed C.I.A. interrogation techniques.”

The memo discusses the case of Abu Zubaydah, described as one of the highest-ranking members of Al Qaeda and one of the planners of the Sept. 11 attacks.

According to the memo, Zubaydah is thought to be witholding vital information from interrogators, and because of the amount of “chatter” that was equivalent to that which preceded the Sept. 11 attacks, it was permissible to up the ante so to speak: to go from regular interrogation methods into the “increased pressure phase”.

And what does the increased pressure phase entail?

Ten techniques: the attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap (insult slap), cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box, and the waterboard.

Page two of the documents gives a rundown of what each technique involves. Ultimately, the memo writers conclude that none of the techniques used on Zubaydah would qualify as “torture”.

According to the Associated Press, former CIA Director Michael Hayden stated that the Obama administration is endangering the country by releasing the memos.

The release of the memos today should make Saturday’s scheduled National Lawyers Guild Teach-In On Torture at Chapman Law’s Kennedy Hall and next week’s debate regarding Presidential Power and Success in Time of Crisiswith Mr. Yoo, Dean John Eastman, Professor Katherine Darmer, and Professor Larry Rosenthal – all the more timely.

Photo: Joe Gratz / Flickr

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5697895_5c57981a6dMemos from the justice department that condoned the use of torture and that outline the methods used by the CIA in secret prisons overseas are scheduled to be released today by the Obama administration, according to The Caucus, a political blog of the New York Times.

The Times writes that among the memos expected to be released is one penned by former Bush legal advisers John Yoo and Jay Bybee that is “a legal authorization for a laundry list of proposed C.I.A. interrogation techniques.”

Yoo, who is a professor at the U.C. Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, is currently a visiting professor at the Chapman University School of Law.

It is unknown how much of the memos will be intact when they are released.

According to The Times, CIA Director Leon Panetta had pushed for weeks to have portions of the memos redacted because information contained in them could “pave the way for future disclosures of intelligence sources and methods, and would jeopardize the C.I.A.’s relationship with foreign intelligence services.”

The “most immediate concern of C.I.A. officials is that the revelations could give new momentum to a full-blown congressional investigation into covert activities under the Bush Administration,” The Times wrote.

The Spanish court was considering pursuing its own criminal investigation into six former Bush officials. The Times reported this morning, however, that Spain would not be opening an investigation of the Bush Six.

The Bush Six includes Yoo, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; Justice Department official Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

Photo: mindgutter / Flickr

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117048243_7cc6bb0b87Scott Horton of The Daily Best is reporting that, according to sources close to the case, Spanish prosecutors will be going forward with a criminal investigation of six Bush administration officials, including Chapman University School of Law visiting professor John Yoo, over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Gitmo.

Horton writes:

“Baltasar Garzón Real, the investigating judge, accepted the complaint and

Continue reading »

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117048243_7cc6bb0b87Author and British barrister (lawyer) Philippe Sands told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer: “If I were they, I would think carefully before setting foot outside the United States. They are now, and forever in the future, at risk of arrest. Until this is sorted out, they are in their own legal black hole.”

And who is part of the “they” in question?

Sands, who released a book titled “Torture Team” last year, singles out six former Bush administration officials, including John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer and currently a visiting instructor at Chapman University’s School of Law.

When Sands book – which accuses Bush officials of complicity in acts of torture – came out, his predictions seemed far fetched, Mayer said. But Mayer writes that last week “Sand’s accusations suddenly did not seem so outlandish.” That’s because a court in Spain took the first steps toward the start of a criminal investigation of the Bush Six, the group of officials Sands cited in his book.

Here’s what happened in Spain. According to the New York Times, an official close to the case said the case was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review. According to the article, the official stated it was “highly probable” the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants for the six, though experts have said the warrants would be more symbolic than practical.

Mr. Yoo declined comment on the Times’ story, telling them he had not seen or heard of the petition. But, if you’re in the area, maybe you’ll luck out and he’ll speak on the matter when he debates Chapman Law professors 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 21 in the university’s Memorial Hall in a dialogue titled “Presidential Power and Success in Times of Crisis”.

I’m no psychic, but something tells me this is going to be a debate to watch. The university, in anticipation of a large turnout, has moved the event to a larger location than originally planned and will not be including lunch.

For more information on the event, Chapman’s Web site says to contact Barbara Babcock at

And here’s a Q&A with John Yoo from the local newspaper, The Orange County Register.

Photo: Joe Gratz / Flickr

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Maybe, maybe not. But a technology blog reported that Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick dangled the threat of prosecution in front of boys who had been swapping photos of their classmates via text messaging, or ‘sexting’, the practice of trading risque text messages that may even include nekkid photos. Dood. Kids in my day traded Yu-Gi-Oh cards or pogs.

Julian Sanchez of the Ars Technica blog writes:

“In a letter sent to parents in February, Skumanick declared that both the boys caught swapping the photos and the girls who’d been photographed would have to submit to a reeducation program or risk being charged with a felony.”

Rather than take that risk, parents agreed to the program, but some other parents, after seeing the photos, didn’t think the images of their daughters clad in white bras were really all that pornographic. The ACLU agreed and, you guessed it, lawsuit!

“In a lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of the mothers of the three girls, the civil liberties group argues that photos merely showing minors in their underwear or topless so clearly fall outside the statutory definition of “pornography” that Skumanick could not possibly have any “reasonable expectation of obtaining a conviction.” Rather, the mothers charge that Skumanick is using a frivolous threat of prosecution to bully parents into accepting his childrearing “assistance.” The plaintiffs are asking a federal district court to issue declaratory ruling that the photos are protected speech, not obscenity, and to enjoin Skumanick’s threats as a violation of their parental rights.”

Read the more about the fun legal stuff in the article here!

UPDATE (3/31): A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the prosecutor from charging the students as child pornographers. Read the article by Ars Technica’s Julian Sanchez here.

One of the local rags, The Orange County Register, recently published an article about a local incident of sexting. In this case, a middle-schooler sexted nekkid photos of herself to at least one friend, and somehow that photo made its way to, like, 10 people. Never in a million years could I have predicted that would happen.

According to the Register’s Jaimee Lynn Fletcher, the group of students who circulated the photos were punished with in-house suspensions, where they attended school but could not go to classes.

Here’s a rule of thumb, people. Never ever send, post, Twitter, etc. a photo of yourself that you would not want shown on national television, to a future spouse, or to a future boss. Somebody somewhere is going to find it and your goodies will be out there one way or the other for all the world to see.

Photo: Brandon Christopher Warren / Flickr

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There are very few YouTube videos that I rewatch. Whenever I need to be inspired, there’s the spine-tingling performance of Nessun Dorma by Paul Potts of Britain’s Got Talent fame. And, when I need some cheering up, there’s always “Laughing Baby”, where (surprise!) a baby laughs hysterically as his father tears up pieces of paper. Thanks to YouTube director Kutiman (also known as Ophir Kutiel, a musican based out of Tel Aviv) I’ve got several more videos to add to my list.

Kutiel, whom I discovered through blog BoingBoing, artfully remixes a hodge podge of videos from vocalists, instrumentalists, and other artists into what can only be called works of audio art. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but Kutiman’s blend of seemingly unrelated bits and pieces into a single cohesive song seems representative of the power of YouTube (and technology in general) to connect people who have never met, to bridge the gap between languages and cultures to make something new and beautiful. You decide. The video up top is titled “Just a Lady”, one of my favorites from Kutiman’s collection.

The videos aren’t just beautiful, however. Washington Post “Faster Forward” blogger Rob Pegararo states that they bring up some interesting copyright issues. Read his blog here. On a kinda sorta related note, BoingBoing also recently wrote about some economists’ call to abolish copyrights and patents.

Read more about Kutiel and his interview with NPR’s Michelle Block here.

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