so what did we learn? for one thing, we learned that wearing a t-shirt to the SOTU can get you arrested. a member of congress invited famous protester cindy sheehan to attend the address, and sheehan got manhandled and arrested for unzipping her jacket:
I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.
The officer ran with me to the elevators yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car. On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said: "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting." Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting."
I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."
if you think she was only harrassed because she was a famed left-wing protester, you're wrong. apparently anybody who wears a t-shirt to the SOTU will get harrassed. however, it apparently is true that they will only arrest you if you're left-wing. right-wing t-shirters are escorted out politely:
The wife of a powerful Republican congressman was also asked to leave.
Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee was removed from the gallery because she was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom."
She was sitting about six rows from first lady Laura Bush and asked to leave. She argued with police in the hallway outside the House chamber.
"They said I was protesting," she told the St. Petersburg Times. "I said, "Read my shirt, it is not a protest.' They said, 'We consider that a protest.' I said, 'Then you are an idiot.'"
They told her she was being treated the same as Sheehan, a protester ejected before the speech Tuesday night for wearing a T-shirt with an antiwar slogan. Sheehan wrote in her blog Wednesday that she intends to file a First Amendment lawsuit.
of course, the wasn't treated the same as sheehan, as sheehan was arrested and spent four hours in jail, where the congressman's wife was simply escorted out. that's not even close to the same treatment. neither woman deserved to be treated like that for simply wearing t-shirts, and, to their credit, capitol police eventually admitted as much:
The extraordinary statement came a day after police removed Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, R-Fla., from the visitors gallery Tuesday night. Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before Bush's arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor, while Young left the gallery and therefore was not arrested, Gainer said.
"Neither guest should have been confronted about the expressive T-shirts," Gainer's statement said.
then again, it's easier to oppress someone and issue a half-assed apology afterward than to not oppress them in the first place. and apparently the two women were not the only ones ejected.
A foreign-born American citizen who was the guest of Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., also was taken by police from the gallery just above the House floor, Hastings said Wednesday.
The congressman met with Gainer and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., about the incident.
"I'd like to find out more information," Hastings said in an interview, identifying the man only as being from Broward County in Florida. "He is a constituent of mine. I invited him proudly."
anybody know what happened to hastings's guest, or why the capitol police didn't feel like apologizing for that? (perhaps because that guest didn't get the media attention that the other two got?)
but let's not focus too much on t-shirts. we don't want to overlook the fact that the white house has already admitted that bush was full of shit:
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.
Bush vowed to fund research into better batteries for hybrid vehicles and more production of the alternative fuel ethanol, setting a lofty goal of replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."
He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."
Not exactly, though, it turns out.
"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.
He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.
Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.
but it's not really "understanding" when you're being lied to, is it? when someone intentionally misleads you, doesn't that make it a misunderstanding?
update: it's not easy being brown:
[T]here was one other person in attendance whose rights were infringed upon. The man, who did not want his identity revealed after the disturbing incident, was a personal guest of Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings. He is a prominent businessman from Broward County, Florida who works with the Department of Defense-and has a security clearance. After sitting in the gallery for the entire speech, he was surrounded by about ten law enforcement officers as he exited the chamber and whisked away to a room in the Capitol.
For close to an hour the man, who was born in India but is an American citizen, was questioned by the Police, who thought he resembled someone on a Secret Service photo watch list, according to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Eventually, the police realized it was a case of mistaken identity and let him go. Gainer has assured Hastings that the Capitol Police, Secret Service and FBI will investigate why the man was detained for so long, and try to "sharpen our procedures." But the man was "very, very scared" by the incident, says Fred Turner, a spokesperson for Hastings. On Tuesday night, he told the congressman that the experience was "maybe just the price of being brown in America," Turner says.¶