Caveat emptor news

This opinion piece provides the dumbest reasons why NYC should allow noncitizens the right to vote in municipal elections. But it is protected by the Freedom of the Press.

If we made sausages the way News is offered to the public for consumption, the FDA would be all over this crap and shut these operations down. Does Freedom of the Press mean everyone can say crap about everything in national news and caveat emptor (buyer beware) prevails? Sheesh.

( I know, I know, that is exactly what Freedom of the Press means. I’m just having a tantrum over this opinionated defense of foreign residents voting in American elections. Bear with me, please. I’ll get over it.)

A) It will strengthen communities and give more residents an investment in politics that affect their daily lives. (Who says it was a weakness to forbid foreign residents from voting and why?)

B) There are about 15 million legal non-residents in the country and about 800,000 in New York City. These are our neighbors who pay taxes, send their children to public schools, start businesses and contribute to their communities. They should be able to elect leaders and have a say in local politics just like anyone else. (Well, they already have a say in local politics. They just don’t have the ability to vote their politics into American action!)

C) Giving noncitizens the right to vote will encourage civic engagement, thereby strengthening the cities that allow it. The more people who vote, the more accurately leaders and policies will reflect their constituencies. (What weaknesses exist today? Hmm? And what evidence do you have that the policies in place today do not reflect their constituencies?)

D) It is not fair that these potential citizens should go so long without any civic voice as their cases wind their way through our backlogged immigration system. (Cry me a river. They already have a civic voice and it has nothing to do with immigration status. If you mean politicians prefer to listen to American voters over foreign voters, well, yes, that is the moral, ethical, and legal right of a politician to determine who they will appeal to.)

“It’s not fair” Sheesh. Grow up, buddy. Life isn’t about fairness towards civic representation.

The author never cited a single instance in which foreign residents of NYC have been harmed by or neglected by the citizens who do vote in NYC. There is no evidence of suffering imposed upon a population of 800,000 foreign residents of New York City.

But hey, this is America. This is the place that no matter how asinine your cause is, you will find a national press ready to publish it.

If we made sausages the way news is offered to the public for consumption, the FDA would be all over this crap and shut these operations down. Does Freedom of the Press mean everyone can say crap and caveat emptor prevails? Sheesh. I guess it does.

The War on Reputations

There’s a new Civil War in progress and nobody’s winning. This Civil War is all about destroying the reputations of political partys, politicians, news media, government institutions, and ordinary people who have found themselves in extraordinary situations.

This is a many-sided war with battles being fought over the reputations of participants. In politics, it’s about Republicans vs Democrats and who will bend the government to their will while it loots USA national treasure for its party.

Outside of national politics, it’s about the reputations of celebrities, businesses and their leaders, and the burgeoning growth of internet personalities. The destroyers attack the reputations of famous people, the reputations of historical events, and the reputations of religion, morality, and financial institutions. And they especially attack the reputations of hard work, civility, deferred gratification, and common decency.

The weaponization of social media is the suitcase bomb of the 90s. The tools of social media allow everyone to become a potential bomb maker and everyone else a potential bomb thrower. In the hands of irresponsible people, the innocent-and-imperfect are attacked with weapons in which there is no defense. There is no defense from the lies that are told or the misrepresentations of the truth. It is scorched earth warfare.

The War on Reputations is an ugly war. It is anarchy on the internet. A “hater” chooses a target and launches his/her hate bomb. Others pick up the same material and fashion it for their own purpose. When government or businesses attempt to stop the bombmakers, other haters attack those same governments and those same businesses and accuse them of denying free speech or being fascist, communist, anti-this, or a sympathizer for that.

The only way to win this war is either not to play the game (a la War Games) or become totalitarian and control the content. For humankind, it appears that controlling the content is the only viable option. Self-control is preferred but “from the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

Just as newspapers and magazines controlled the content of their publications, the ISPs may be required to control the content in their e-publications.

Accusations and mudslinging will need an outside force to control them. And that is exactly what many fear.

The legislation that controls the content of the US internet will be foreboding at best; but to live with a free market of smearing, sneering, and fleering seems impossible. To give every person access to social media bomblets and permit the desecration of the innocent-and-imperfect seems too permissive. Not everyone is an adult and not everyone is equal. We should recognize that.

The War on Reputations could use a few Rules of Social Media Warfare and violations of those rules should likely become Social Media War Crimes with attendant consequences. Perhaps a new Geneva Convention is needed to craft those rules.

Any takers?

Freedom of the Printing Press?

From 2011:

In his landmark new article on the press clause’s original meaning titled “‘The Freedom of…the Press,’ From 1791 to 1868 to Now- Freedom for the Press as an Industry, or the Press as a Technology,” UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh argues the Founders meant the press clause’s “the press” to be the printing press (a printing technology) and any future communication technology.  Crazy, right?  So the Founders really meant something more like “freedom of…the printing press” or “freedom in the use of the press”?

Volokh describes how, with no significant exceptions, prominent writers the Founders often cited, including William Blackstone, Jean-Louis De Lolme, and George Tucker, connected press freedom with the right of every “freeman,” “citizen,” or “individual” to “write,” “print,” or “publish” his or her thoughts.  This fact implies the Founders didn’t intend the press clause to protect the existing or future collection of “newsmongers” per se but rather to recognize the right of any person (or “freeman”) to use printing presses (Until 1694, England imposed licenses on publications, which the Founders abhorred).  James Madison’s following first draft of the Bill of Rights’ speech/press clauses highlights this point: “The people [emphasis added] shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”

So this morning, my ‘debating’ work colleague said that he supports journalism (freedom of the press) but not journalists as it applied to the Fox reporter who kept her sources private. He thinks that she should be tried for concealing the identity of the person who leaked her information during a judge’s gag order. Freedom of the Press is not an issue, he says, because the story was published and distributed and she does not receive immunity from prosecution because she is a reporter. His point was that an order of the court to gag public officials was legitimate and therefore she should be compelled to turn over her source who broke the law. I repeated the established journalists’ argument that if reporters are required to divulge their sources that their sources will dry up.
My colleague asked why should reporters receive special consideration and not be held accountable like other citizens. After all, no one else is allowed not to testify when ordered by a court. I replied that wives are not forced to testify against their husbands why should they receive special dispensation under the law.
My colleague replied that there is a clear definition of a wife and there should be a clear definition of a reporter. I said that a definition of journalism is precisely what will create journalists as a special class of people who cannot be charged with contempt of court. He dragged out an example of a reporter who witnesses a murder and refuses to tell the court who did it. I said 1. There is no moral equivalency between a gag order on public officials and murder and 2. He himself had argued many times that no one should be charged with a crime for lying to investigators. (Silence being the least offensive lie.)
This is when he said again that he supports journalism but not journalists.
All of this occurred between 7:45 a.m. and 7:55 a.m. this morning.
So I had to go look for more information and I found the article above that Freedom of the Press meant the freedom to print your opinion and distribute it. Freedom of the Press did not mean Freedom for Journalists. Yet the two are linked aren’t they?
In today’s language, Freedom of the Press, should be construed to mean spreading your opinion around by media and it should not be tied to a person’s job or credentials. It is the right of a person to distribute his message around the country. Pamphleteers of 1780 are akin to bloggers today in my opinion. If laws are created that set boundaries around what a ‘journalist’ is, then we have created a special class of people with special laws due to the job they perform. That is elitism and undemocratic.
The government’s purpose in defining a journalist is the power to suppress those who do not meet the definition. Over time, the government will seek to erode the special status of journalists for more control and more power. Does anyone doubt this? It won’t be through conspiracy but through opportunity. That is how these things work. ‘Striking while the iron is hot’ is the mantra of powerful people who seek opportunity to advance their causes, their hidden agendas.
The first amendment does say: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Please note that the sentence structure implies that the freedom of speech is linked to the freedom of the press.The authors wanted to be certain that no one in the future would think that the freedom of speech was limited to a person talking but that it included the ability to distribute speech in written form as well as in verbal form. Commentary was included as speech but was ‘news’? At that time, commentary and news were linked as one and the same.
What to say then about gag orders and the distribution of information by journalists, who obtained it from those who were bound by judicial decree not to release it? Should they be compelled to release their sources?
Perhaps the question is ‘does the Freedom of Speech also include the Freedom not to Speak?’ I think so. Without the ability to choose when to speak and on what topics, there cannot be freedom. But like all freedoms, there are limitations. One should not be permitted to remain silent when justice to a victim will be denied. Yet, one should not be compelled to remain silent with information about an alleged offender. Clearly that is what the judge was seeking with his gag order. He was compelling those with information about the offender not to release that information to the public and he wished to punish the offending law enforcement official who defied him.
There is no doubt that the court should pursue an investigation to determine the offender but that does not mean the court ought to compel a reporter to disclose his/her source. And that was the final result of the trial, wasn’t it? Well, no, actually. The ruling was whether New York’s Shield Law applied to New York journalists when they were traveling in other states. The New York Court system ruled that “an order from a New York court directing a reporter to appear in another state where, as here, there is a substantial likelihood that she will be compelled to identify sources who have been promised confidentiality would offend our strong public policy,”
The courts of New York have a public policy that ought not to be offended…apparently. Sigh… it is so complicated when the courts stray from the law and begin to support and establish public policy. The headline for that piece said “New York’s top court blocks Colorado from forcing Fox reporter to reveal sources or face jail”. Giving credit to the court system for supporting public policy is never good. Supporting the law is better.
So my conclusion is that while reporters and journalists are not enshrined with Constitutional protections per se, compelling them to reveal their sources effectively removes the benefits sought by the Freedom of the Press. I also conclude that New York Courts think more about its policies than the law and that is dangerous and offensive to me. And finally, New York’s Shield Law does precisely what I said it will do: it created a special class of citizens with more rights than you or I. The State of Colorado should feel snubbed by the State of New York for extending its Shield Law protections into other states. Will Colorado take this to the next level? I don’t know.

Who needs a law that protects a Constitutional Right?

Over at Constitution Daily, a reporter writes:

“The legal victory secured by Fox News reporter Jana Winter this week could mark an important milestone in the fight for a national law that protects journalists’ First Amendment rights.”

Someone has this all wrong. It is the other way round. The Constitution protects our rights from abuse by law.

The judge apparently wishes to punish somebody.

Winter faced jail time in Colorado for refusing to name a confidential source in her reporting of the July 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting. After the incident, Winter reported that the accused killer, James Holmes, had sent a notebook containing disturbing images to his psychiatrist.

Winter’s news report appeared after a judge in Colorado imposed a gag order on the case. In January 2013, the court in Arapahoe County, Colo., where Holmes is being tried, concluded there was substantial evidence that unnamed law enforcement officials in Winter’s story had violated the gag order by giving her information.

Yeah. So what? There was no untruth.

Two things burn my butt more every day.First, if you withhold information from investigators you are charged with a crime. Second, if you tell someone other than the authorities what you know, you are charged with a crime. How is that not judicial tyranny?

People who wield the law like a weapon and threaten citizens should be chastised publicly. The reporter is not the problem. The informer is not the problem. The problem is people who wish to control the truth in order to conceal it from others. They are the problem.

When the truth becomes secondary to the judicial process, the guilty go free and the victim has no justice. And when injustice becomes predominant, people will take the law into their hands.

But in all of this, I really expected that the Constitutional Daily would not support a law that will limit the definition of a journalist. That type of law will be used to control everyone who knows the truth and it will penalize those who share the truth with others.

While a law may describe and even enshrine a principle of the Constitution that has not been honored in practice, the Constitution is national law already.

Another law about the freedom of the press is unnecessary. The courts have ruled over and over again the Constitutional right to distribute the truth in any media by any person who reports it. That is what happened here.

Another infringement on personal and private communications

Here it is.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a hush-hush trade pact that threatens millions of Internet users’ rights to connect and communicate.

Until recently the agreement had been shrouded in secrecy. But now that WikiLeaks has released some of the text, we know that the TPP would let corporations monitor our online activities, cut off our Internet access, delete content and impose fines.

The TPP is that bad. And it’s on a fast track to getting U.S. approval — without any public review or input.

This is why the Free Press Action Fund has joined forces with our friends at RootsAction to stop the TPP.

Former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has admitted that if the public knew about the TPP, there’s no way it would pass.

The pact caters to corporate interests that have little regard for our digital rights. Consider the section on intellectual property, which allows the kinds of online speech restrictions that so many of us protested when they appeared in the Stop Online Piracy Act.

The nations involved in the TPP represent more than 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. In many cases, the pact overrides or modifies the laws of TPP member states.

The chief negotiators are congregating in Utah on Nov. 19–24 to hammer out key details — and President Obama has signaled his intention to move the treaty forward. Now’s the time to put the pressure on.

Tell Congress and the White House to reject the TPP.

We must expose powerful corporations and their allies in Washington before they undermine our online rights.

No one really cares if it’s apathy or not….

Sadly, no one in the national media is beating the drum of personal privacy. Why is that?

Do we think that we are so small that our government would never oppress us? Or do we think that our government is so large that we cannot effect change? Or are we simply apathetic on the whole issue?

Is the problem that we have lost the ability to argue a point without a series of examples as supporting evidence?

Evil prospers when good men do nothing. If we wish to regain personal privacy, we must do something. What shall we do today?



The Power of Definitions

Many times it is the power to define a thing that controls the conversation, or the policy, or the legislation. Consider this:

The Senate Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 would establish a national “shield law” that would give journalists protection from testifying in situations when investigators want the sources of confidential information used in media reports.

However, in today’s world, the definition of the word “journalist” means different things to different people, and two powerful Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin, say journalists only should enjoy extended First Amendment protection if they work for traditional media outlets on a paid basis.

Where in the First Amendment does the word “Journalist” ever occur?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]

Clearly it does not say that Congress shall decide who is entitled to thumb their nose at investigators: yes to journalists and no to everyone else. The very title of the proposed law is Orwellian by saying’ Free Flow of Information’ but its intent is to make a law that removes the protections of the First Amendment to all except those that are defined by the government as deserving of protection.

A government first becomes obsessive before it becomes oppressive. Right now the federal government is obsessed with extending its power over others. Making you tell investigators when you do not want to is unconstitutional when you are threatened with incarceration as a result.Is there a difference between being thrown in jail for expressing your views and not telling investigators where those views came from? I don’t think so.

The power to compel people to tell the truth during an investigation is huge and now the power to tell investigators when you do not wish is larger. There was a time when the courts had power to swear people in and then jail them for lying and there was a time when the courts could place reluctant witnesses in jail for not testifying. When that power can be utilized by the police and investigators to threaten people to cooperate this has taken everything to a whole new level of oppression.

Anytime government can define who is entitled to the protections of the Constitution it is well on the road to oppression. The First Amendment is about what Congress cannot do. Congress should pay attention to that part.

There is no difference between bloggers, radio announcers, back fence political conversations, kitchen news readers, and journalists. The press is the press and it does not mean just people with printing presses to distribute their words to the public.


Federal Gov’t: Thy name is Oppression!

This is the face of Oppression before Tyranny:

Two major encrypted email providers have shut down in recent days rather than cooperate with federal investigators, including the service used by NSA intelligence leaker Edward Snowden. The two services, Lavabit — the client Snowden used — and Silent Mail both posted notices on their websites explaining they will shut down their services shortly.

The owner of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, insinuated in his post Thursday that his site had become the target of a federal investigation and that he personally was subject to a gag order as a result, Forbes reports. Rather than becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people”, Levison had decided to shutter his nearly ten-year-old business and fight the investigation in court. Levison finished his post by bluntly warning anyone from storing data in the United States.

Silent Mail’s creators decided to end their encrpyted email service on Friday in conjunction with Levison, bluntly announcing that they had “preemptively discontinued the service to prevent spying.”

I am fairly certain that most have not encountered the strong arm use of Power over others. This is an example how the use of Power can be a deterrent to a legal activity. Note that this is not an abuse of Power. Abuse signifies a rational limit or a statutory limit was exceeded. This was simply the use of Power to make things difficult for the operator to continue performing a legal act. Money and the cost of a defense is often used to ‘influence’ others into a different course of action as it did in this instance.

“We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now,” wrote Jon Callas, co-founder and CTO of privacy-focused software called Silent Circle in a Friday blog post. “We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.”

The company did not announce any plans to shut down any of their other encrypted applications, including video chat and document sharing programs.

Silent Mail goes dark on Monday.

Sen. Durbin, Shield Laws, and the Press….

On ‘Fox News Sunday’, Sen. Dick Durbin clucked about a Federal Shield Law and mentioned bloggers and tweeters and then said “Are these people journalists and entitled to Constitutional protections?”

Whoa,Nelly. Say What?

The short answer is ‘of course they are’. But short answers are often wrong. So let’s explore this…

The first amendment says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Nowhere does the Constitution talk about journalists. It talks about freedom of the press as it relates to Congress and its powers. The Press in 1787  were those people involved in the creation, production, and distribution of opinions, news, and views in which political assent, dissent, or reporting of political events occurred. We don’t define it that way anymore but we should. Some wish to more narrowly define the Press in order to control people who say things they don’t want said. Others want to include Better Homes and Garden as journalists if it wrote a piece about an existing marijuana garden. Both of these would be wrong but few care about right and wrong anymore, they only care about getting what they want.

Now, let’s talk about abridging: “shorten in scope”, “curtail”. That seems to be easy to understand.

And let’s understand what a Shield Law is:”A shield law is legislation designed to protect reporters’ privilege, or the right of news reporters to refuse to testify as to information and/or sources of information obtained during the news gathering and dissemination process. Currently the U.S. federal government has not enacted any national shield laws, but most states do have shield laws or other protections for reporters in place.”

And why are even talking about Shield Laws, you ask?

Supreme Court case Branzburg vs Hayes:

“Paul Branzburg of The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, in the course of his reporting duties, witnessed people manufacturing and using hashish. He wrote two articles concerning drug use in Kentucky. The first featured unidentified hands holding hashish, while the second included marijuana users as sources. These sources requested not to be identified. Both of the articles were brought to attention of law-enforcement. Branzburg was subpoenaed before a grand jury for both of the articles. He was ordered to name his sources.”

“In a fiercely split decision, the Court ruled 5-4 against the existence of reportorial privilege in the Press Clause of the First Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Byron White declared that the petitioners were asking the Court “to grant newsmen a testimonial privilege that other citizens do not enjoy. This we decline to do.” Justice White acknowledged the argument that refusing to recognize such a privilege would undermine the ability of the press to gather news, but wrote that “from the beginning of the country the press has operated without constitutional protection for press informants, and the press has flourished.”

Everybody knows that the First Amendment intended to protect the process of the Press as it relates to assent (or dissent )with the government. It is written so, (Congress shall make no laws….) but Justice White was more egregious than most because he conflated ‘press informants’ as being the same as the Press and mixed it all up with criminality rather than political assent or dissent. He sought to go after the informants to the Press via abridging the freedom of the Press without touching the concept of political assent or dissent.  Here we are today still living with his cr@pola response.

So now let’s summarize: Because of the Supreme Court’s decision that allows federal and state governments to abridge the freedom of the Press with a threat of incarceration, rather than rejecting the defense argument because it was unrelated to political assent or dissent, the States enacted Shield Laws to protect the Press from Justice White’s view that the Press was unprotected in anything. Because those Shield Laws are not under federal control, Congress is attempting to write a Shield Law that protects journalists from federal consequences where the definition of a journalist will be something more narrowly defined than the press process, in toto, as evident in the First Amendment.

Does it take a rocket scientist to see that if there is a federal shield law that narrowly defines journalist as protected but excludes other labels like bloggers and tweeters that more freedom of the press is abridged? It shouldn’t take a scientist.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that if you tweet about your friend smoking dope that you are protected under the First Amendment and do not have to reveal who your friend is and the circumstances surrounding his illegal activities. Wrong.

The Press is a process. I mentioned above that it includes people who create, produce, and distribute opinions, news, and views about political assent or dissent. A political, social, and, at times, cultural blogger, like me, who uses free blogging platforms and does no investigation of original events is still the Press ….as long as I write about political assent , dissent, government, the tools of government, and any government activity. Drug manufacturing information and sources are not protected although we may wish them to be.

If Senator Durbin asks the question: Are bloggers and tweeters subject to constitutional free speech, the answer is unequivocally yes. When he asks if they are also constitutionally protected for freedom of the Press, the answer is perhaps. If they tweet that Congress sucks,  or the President can kiss their hiny, that is protected political assent, dissent, and political current events.If they blog about illegal activity unrelated to politics and government, the answer ought to be no.



Barron County: Prayer before government meetings

Since 1957, the Barron County Board has prayed at the start of its meetings. Last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened a lawsuit if it continued this practice. On January 21st, the County Board voted to continue its invocation. It had the support and the urging of 35 citizens to proceed with this longstanding practice.

All of this is common sense, isn’t it? It is one thing to prevent the Federal government from establishing a national religion and quite another to say that people should forego a common time for religious prayer because it offends someone else. Although I may not be able to explain why a government call to Muslim prayer five times a day is different than a County Board calling for voluntary prayer once a month, I know that others can.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation seeks to prevent a time for voluntary prayer so they are not offended by someone else’s beliefs, and yet they seek to offend every religious person by denying them a time to jointly pray to their Deity for guidance.

As noted by others, the Constitution grants ‘freedom of religion’ but not ‘freedom from religion’. While we need to be mindful that we do not force people to pray, there is no cause to prevent people from voluntary prayer if they so choose.

I support the Barron County Board in its decision… and the Devil take the hindmost if you believe in that, too.