It starts with Usenet: squashing free speech

Zeropaid reports on yet another ISP censoring its Usenet access. AT&T will cease offering access to alt.bin* and alt.bain* newsgroups as part of its package later this week, due to pressure from New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo exerted under the guise of reducing the flow of child pornography.

The sheer idiocy of this logic is demonstrated by the following quote from the AT&T notice:

While we will continue to provide access to newsgroups as part of our Internet Service Offerings, we will no longer include alt.bin* nor alt.bain* hierarchies because of the possibility of child pornography in those particular groups and the difficulty in ensuring that no child porn reappears in them. You can still access newsgroups content through unaffiliated third party providers.

In light of that last sentence, Cuomo is an idiot if he thinks this move will have any real net effect on the child pornography problem. It’s a very thinly veiled attempt at censorship; Cuomo may as well fight to make it illegal to sell Internet access in the state of New York.

I, personally, haven’t been on Usenet in quite a while, and had no need for binaries groups when I did. However, for those who wish to use them, the option should be there. As a common carrier, AT&T–and for that matter, any Internet service provider–should be shielded from liability for what is posted via and to their Usenet servers.

Am I arguing for the right to post child porn? No. But I do believe the action against AT&T is just the top of the slippery slope.

Flyover denied

An Idaho TV station, KTVB-TV, recently reported on an incident involving a local festival which usually involves a military flyover, but did not this year due to the Pentagon’s refusal of the request. The Treasure Valley God and Country Festival in Nampa (a few miles west of Boise), Idaho,

Dave Kellogg opines on this event, in essence calling out the Obama administration for discriminating against an event that has had the same military flyover for the previous 42 years, dating back to the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. I don’t believe Obama’s administration is to blame here and I will explain why.

If one looks at the Web site of the God and Country Festival, particularly its about page, there is an unmistakably strong religious overtone. Quoting from the first two paragraphs of the about page:

The God and Country Festival in Nampa, Idaho is organized by a volunteer-driven organization called the God and Country Association, Inc. The organization is made up of Christians who are committed to strengthening the fabric of the Treasure Valley community through the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are also interested in helping believers around the nation get an independent God and Country event started.

We believe that Christians in America should have a natural affection for their country because it was founded on the godly ideal that liberty is derived, not as a gift of governments and politicians, but as a gift of our Creator.

To be honest, I’m surprised their requests have been approved for over four decades. According to this, the organization is not primarily about honoring the veterans at all, which is what some of the news quotes would lead you to believe. From what the Web site states, the organization’s purpose is more about furthering their religion as it is about honoring veterans. In fact, from the home page:

We want to make it clear that although it is unashamedly a Christian event, a major part of the Festival is honoring our troops who protect our freedom to assemble.

Yes, many of the original founders of this nation were Christian. However, the framers of the Constitution also wrote in freedom of religion for a reason. As one who practices a faith quite different from Christianity, I would feel somewhat excluded from this event, or even a similar event held locally.

Quoting the end of Dave’s post:

Isn’t this taking the separation of church and state just a bit too far? I guess it doesn’t surprise me, though, that this is taking place during the Obama administration. Considering this event has taken place during every Presidential administration over the last 42 years, including both Democrat and Republican Presidents, could it be any other reason other than someone in Obama’s administration doesn’t like the fact that it would’ve been taking place at a *** and Country Family Festival?

It doesn’t surprise me that the Pentagon has been flaunting the seperation of church and state clause of the Constitution for over four decades. I’m glad someone at the Pentagon decided to actually look up the organization before just rubber-stamping “approved” on the request.