Recent research on the 50th anniversary of world renowned Catholic mystic, author, and antiwar activist Thomas Merton’s untimely death suggests that it may well be categorized alongside the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. *
Additional information and research on the suspicious death of Fr. Thomas Merton are available at
*The video report notes that no autopsy was conducted on Merton’s body because of counsel by the US Embassy in Thailand. To be clear, this was according to a single claim made by a Merton colleague. The records and testimony surrounding the death are profuse and often at odds. They suggest, however, that even some church members and those in the company of Merton at the time were potentially complicit in a coverup.
Today, I give you a frightening story about free speech censorship and watchlists just in time for the countdown to Halloween.
A recent article in The Tennessean reveals how the Williamson County School District (WCS) is monitoring students free speech and social media posts.
The WCS recently implemented a “threat surveillance program” called Gaggle, that is so invasive and frightening one would be hard pressed not to call it a “gag” program that limits students free speech.
When the WCS was asked to reveal specific details about what Gaggle and authorities are monitoring students speech for, they claimed they could not reveal any details “due to federal family protection laws.”
Public & private schools are joining the ranks of alphabet soup surveillance agencies like DHS, the FBI and the NSA claiming they cannot reveal surveillance details.
The Tennessean was able toshed some light on what Gaggle monitors by saying it, “operates using a mathematical algorithm to identify high risk words and phrases when students are logged into the district’s server.”
Gaggle’s video was a little more revealing, claiming that they monitor students social media posts 24/7 for things like:
alcohol use and much more
When school districts and private corporations start monitoring students for things like profanity and insulting language, we should all be worried because it will not end there.
Soon social media providers will monitor everyone.
Police officers outside of Dayton, Ohio, unsheathed their weapons and fired blanks in Franklin High School on Tuesday as part of a misguided effort to prepare students for a possible active shooter.
The planned drill unnecessarily ratcheted up the intensity of school lockdown procedures, which routinely require students and teachers to barricade themselves in their classrooms. That the exercise was potentially traumatizing was not lost on the officials who planned it, as they came equipped with “Social-Emotional Activities,” as well as counselors who could talk with any disturbed teens.
“There was a concern and it did cause some stress” among parents and students, Lt. Gerry Massey tells the Cincinnati Enquirer. Senior Samantha Earnhart, one such terrified student, said that she “became very emotional” and “started to cry” upon hearing the gunfire.
And for what? Regardless of the feverish rhetoric around school shootings, the phenomenon remains exceedingly rare.
Less rare, however, are these increasingly extreme active shooter drills.
Congress and major media rally around “whistleblowers” with certain political import. Yet real whistleblowers receive certain wrath for speaking out. Former Florida cop Mark Dougan, now exiled in Russia, claims to have explosive files linking pedophile Jeffrey Epstein to Prince Andrew. Fearing for his life, he claims to have these attached to a “dead man’s switch.”
Andrew Ross Sorkin New York Times (September 12, 2019)
In a direct and urgent call to address gun violence in America, the chief executives of some of the nation’s best-known companies sent a letter to Senate leaders on Thursday, urging an expansion of background checks to all firearms sales and stronger “red flag” laws.
“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the heads of nearly 150 companies, including Levi Strauss, Twitter and Uber, say in the letter, which was shared with The New York Times.
The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.
It all began in January 2013 when a media firestorm ensued over a handful of blog posts Florida Atlantic University Professor James Tracy wrote discussing the anomalous news coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
The controversy reached a crescendo when CNN’s Anderson Cooper sent reporters to FAU’s Boca Raton campus to pursue Tracy, then fumed incredulously over Tracy’s comments on his primetime news show.
Following FAU’s termination of Tracy in 2016 the fired professor requested his complete personnel file from the public university. Among the several hundred documents were a collection of notes hand-written by Tracy’s supervisor and dean, Heather Coltman, which were taken during administrative meetings addressing “JT”.
As Cooper took to the airwaves, Coltman joined top FAU administrators and attorneys to discuss ways to discipline or terminate Tracy. This presented a particularly thorny situation because the professor’s blog was protected by the First Amendment. Could Tracy’s speech be considered “misconduct”? “When was [the] disclaimer put on” his blog? How else could the professor’s speech activities be construed as a “violation of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]”?
After reading his blog and conferring with him briefly, Coltman concluded that Tracy was “not going to stop publishing”. The group thus resolved that he would somehow have to be reprimanded without attracting the public attention that might raise the ire of civil rights groups and FAU’s faculty union.
As the group continued to strategize it became evident that Tracy’s blog clearly fell under the First Amendment’s purview. “[A]cademic freedom,” was not at issue “because this was not academic”, Coltman wrote. A “hobby is diff[erent] from work at a univ[ersity]” and FAU officials didn’t want to be publicly perceived as “police[ing] people’s private lives.”
One way to get around the “1st Amendment,” was to “find winning metaphors,” that might create an avenue for terminating Tracy while providing “talking points” for FAU once they finally dropped the hammer.
During discovery and at trial FAU officials were loathe to acknowledge these incriminating documents. Although Coltman was “able to explain away all of the other notes she had recorded from her meetings in 2013,” attorney Louis Leo IV writes in his comprehensive overview of the TracyvFAU case, “Legalizing Pretext,”
Dean Coltman suffered selective memory loss when questioned at deposition and at trial about her note, “1st Amendment – finding winning metaphors”.
While FAU officials may not have wanted to remember or acknowledge what the note meant, anyone with common sense knows what it means. Government officials were looking for a pretext to retaliate against Professor Tracy for his protected speech.
So, what was the winning metaphor? In this case, it was a vague, confusing and selectively enforced school policy called the “Conflict of Interest/Outside Activities” Policy. It goes by many other names at FAU, including most often used “Outside Employment”, “Outside Business” or “Outside Activities” Policy.
Prior to Professor Tracy’s termination in January 2016, the Policy had never before been used to discipline, let alone terminate, a tenured faculty member for failing to report uncompensated online speech.
FAU’s million dollar legal team maintains that Tracy was merely terminated for insubordination because he failed to disclose his blogging to school officials for approval. This theme was dutifully parroted by South Florida news media, Weeks before trial the federal judge accepted this argument and nullified most of Tracy’s pleadings of their First Amendment challenges in her October 31, 2017 summary judgement order.
Before the US Court of Appeals FAU continues to hold that Tracy’s termination cannot be understood through a First Amendment lens. Consequently FAU still applies an “unconstitutionally-vague, content-restrictive” policy that at any time can be enforced as a prior restraint on any FAU professor or employee’s speech or activity that administrators for any reason deem undesirable. According to FAU, this practice does not present a civil rights concern and should remain immaterial under the US Constitution and federal rule of law.
This Thursday September 19 both sides will argue before a panel of 11th Circuit appellate judges whether FAU’s “Outside Activities Policy” was in fact the “winning metaphor” used to defeat the First Amendment.
Additional information on the oral argument venue is available here.
FAU Professor James Tracy has occupied a unique position from which to critique dishonest, lazily-produced, and thinly-veiled propaganda presented as “news.” He has been a prime target of national news media for his controversial views and analyses of public events. More recent coverage has been addressed at some length on this site (e.g. here, here and here).
Now the Palm Beach Post has upped the ante, actually classifying Tracy’s civil rights battle against FAU as “crime.”
In August 2018, Tracy filed an appeal of the lower court’s TracyvFAU with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which will be heard before a panel of judges on September 19, 2019. The final appeal brief was filed the following November.
While South Florida news media provided florid, wall-to-wall coverage of the TracyvFAU trial taking place in West Palm Beach in late 2017, there has been scant reporting of the important appeal in the same media. The Palm Beach Post has carried one story upon the federal appeal filing, while the South Florida Sun-Sentinel hasn’t even mentioned the action, with its presumably final story noted that the pro forma appeal for a retrial in the lower court was denied.
In a recent review of the Post‘s single story, it’s notable that the paper’s editors classify the important civil rights appeal as a “crime.” That’s right, the staff actually filed the report in the news outlet’s online crime section.
According to the newspaper’s editors, a professor questioning FAU’s unconstitutionally vague “Outside Employment/Activities Policy” is a criminal. The Post‘s Crime News page is the same blue collar crime department that carries reports of murders, rapes, and car-jackings, accompanied by police mugshots of the alleged perpetrators.
This is likely no mistake. The Palm Beach Post now believes it’s a crime for any individual to question the news media’s often confusing reportage of complex events–particularly a college professor who might be given some measure of public credibility.
By failing to accept the court’s conclusions in TracyvFAU, and having the temerity to ask for a higher court’s review, James Tracy, in the judgement of South Florida’s corporate news media, has committed a “crime.”
Further, the Post‘s story title, “Fired FAU Professor Declares It’s His Right to Call Sandy Hook a Hoax,” is clearly misleading and inflammatory, as is the sloppy reporting itself.
For example, Court reporter Jane Musgrave writes,
University administrators and others might not like his views that the school shooting and other tragedies, such as the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings, were staged by the government to promote gun control. But Tracy has a constitutional right to express them, [his attorney] said.
Any observer of the proceedings by now knows Tracy never made any claims or inferences that the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings were “staged by the government to promote gun control.” In fact, he’s even been consistently careful not to affirm the notion that “nobody died at Sandy Hook.” Perhaps this is a reason Vice interviewed him for several hours in early 2018, but then failed to air even a few seconds of the interview.
In fact, none of the appeal briefs even mention the Oklahoma City or Boston Marathon bombings. But as far as Musgrave and Post editors are concerned, anything goes when seeking to further defame Tracy and “his ongoing quest to get his job back.”
This form of hype and flagrant inaccuracy suggests the newspaper management’s contempt not only Tracy’s “quest,” but also for its readership’s intelligence and discernment.
In the end these escapades shouldn’t be surprising. One can certainly make the argument that the Post‘s coverage isn’t even intended to satisfy the informational needs of its readership. As the end of the day its publisher and staff are keenly aware of the powerful area interests they must placate. Its reportage thus plays to the very select “gallery” of Palm Beach County’s most powerful and affluent individuals.
With the aid of South Florida “journalists” these parties and their ilk will apparently do anything to deprive a “conspiracy theorist” of his tenured public university post.