First Amendment

Oct 292009

The FCC seems to be interested in implementing some sort of “net neutrality” regulation. If people think that means ISPs wouldn’t be able to block certain types of traffic, they should also be aware that the Homeland Security Department is asserting that is has the power to order ISPs to shut down popular sites during emergencies.

Well, everyone agrees that the government needs the power to do almost anything to ensure our existence as a country in the face of a grave threat, don’t we?

In other news, President Obama has declared swine flu a national emergency.

Oh, wait. That’s the same news. Because the example that the Homeland Security Department is giving is the case of a national epidemic where people have to stay home and telecommute:

But the Homeland Security Department accused the GAO of having unrealistic expectations of how the Internet could be managed if millions began to telework from home at the same time as bored or sick schoolchildren were playing online, sucking up valuable bandwidth.

Experts have for years pointed to the potential problem of Internet access during a severe pandemic, which would be a unique kind of emergency. It would be global, affecting many areas at once, and would last for weeks or months, unlike a disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake.

H1N1 swine flu has been declared a pandemic but is considered a moderate one. Health experts say a worse one — or a worsening of this one — could result in 40 percent absentee rates at work and school at any given time and closed offices, transportation links and other gathering places.

Many companies and government offices hope to keep operations going as much as possible with teleworking using the Internet. Among the many problems posed by this idea, however, is the issue of bandwidth — especially the “last mile” between a user’s home and central cable systems.

“Such network congestion could prevent staff from broker-dealers and other securities market participants from teleworking during a pandemic,” reads the GAO report, available here

“The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for ensuring that critical telecommunications infrastructure is protected.”


Private Internet providers might need government authorization to block popular websites, it said, or to reduce residential transmission speeds to make way for commerce.

URL here.

Hmm. Popular websites? I wonder if Fox News is popular.

Jun 022009

Not only does Obama have no exit strategy in his war on capitalism, but he has his own equivalent of a WMD rationale. This one is for a war on another front. Now he’s warning about vague cybersecurity threats as a rationale so he can be given great power to somehow protect the internet from these terrible threats.

And it’s ironic that on the same NetworkWorld page with an article that tries to drum up support for Obama’s newest war is this item over in the “Most Read” sidebar: “20 years after Tiananmen, China containing dissent online.”

Apr 172009

Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois has a lot to learn about democratic values. I heard some background buzz about tea parties the past few days but didn’t pay a lot of attention until I read this:

The “tea parties” being held today by groups of right-wing activists, and fueled by FOX News Channel, are an effort to mislead the public about the Obama economic plan that cuts taxes for 95 percent of Americans and creates 3.5 million jobs.”

It’s despicable that right-wing Republicans would attempt to cheapen a significant, honorable moment of American history with a shameful political stunt. Not a single American household or business will be taxed at a higher rate this year. Made to look like a grassroots uprising, this is an Obama bashing party promoted by corporate interests, as well as Republican lobbyists and politicians.”

Now I wish I had found a tea party to take part in myself.

Even if she doesn’t agree with the protestors, she should praise them for getting involved in the political process and for engaging in a national dialog. What’s despicable is for a national legislator to speak against the values enshrined in the First Amendment, which speaks of the right of citizens peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

And her statement that “not a single American household or business will be taxed at a higher rate this year” is hardly a rebutal to anything. I presume the protestors’ concern is over existing tax rates being an unsustainable way to support our government, and the fact that much of the stimulus package is intended to force state governments to continue higher rates of spending (and taxing) in exchange for receiving stimulus dollars. I would hope that the tax protesters are more forward-looking than Rep. Schakowsky with her one-year horizon.

As to the source of the protest, if she is going to make wild accusations about the source of the movement, maybe she should provide some evidence to back them up. Frankly, I don’t think she’s telling the truth.

Feb 062009

It’s a good thing we have a First Amendment to protect us from Senator Debbie Stabenow’s ideas about “accountability” and “responsibility.”

SENATOR DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else — I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.

She doesn’t need to go looking for some other phrase than Fairness Doctrine. There is already one in the dictionary: censorship.

Accountability, responsibility, and standards in speech: Those are things that are prohibited by the First Amendment. Transparency we already have.

Maybe if she didn’t have such a crappy ideology that won’t stand up to scrutiny, she wouldn’t feel such a need to stifle the speech of dissidents.

Jan 312009

You know, Church and State are supposed to be SEPARATE in this country. That is the way the Constitution was established.. SO PLEASE, STOP SPREADING YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. SERIOUSLY.

That was a comment in response to an anti-abortion ad featuring the President of the United States. The person who wrote the comment is probably one of those who was never taught the difference between church & state on the one hand and religion & politics on the other.

Actually, this one seems to be an even more serious case than that. The ad isn’t even political.

Dec 032008

Michelle Malkin says there is bipartisan talk of a bailout for the newspaper business in Connecticut. No, really. Yes, there have been spoofs about the need for newspaper bailouts, but in this case they really mean it.

What next? Bailouts for mainline Christian churches whose fat endowments are getting skinny? All in the spirit of the same First Amendment that covers the church as well as the press?

I wonder what these people think about the principle that there is no such thing as federal aid without federal control. But who knows, maybe that’s exactly what they want.

Jun 222008

The 17th century isn’t over yet. The Inquisition is still going strong.

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer. (URL)

Or is this instead an example of the scientific method?

Feb 142008

Republicans at The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard are putting a lot of energy into bashing conservatives who refuse to support John McCain. According to Newsweek, there’s a semi-organized effort to work over those conservatives.

Here’s an idea, though. What if for every hour these Republicans put into bashing and hectoring McCain’s conservative opponents, they match it with an hour spent convincing McCain to support the First Amendment, starting with a repeal of McCain-Feingold?

That would be a force to be reckoned with.

Feb 132008

I don’t get this at all. Johnnie B. Byrd says conservatives should get to work to support John McCain; otherwise the Democrats will win and will re-institute the Fairness Doctrine.

Where did he ever get the idea that Mr. McCain-Feingold would be any different? He hasn’t exactly expressed any respect for talk radio in particular or free speech in general. In fact, he has been badmouthing both.

If conservatives want to have any impact in defending the 1st Amendment, they need to work hard to defeat McCain. That’s the only way to show that free-speech advocates are still a force to be reckoned with. It’s not much, and it would be better to have some sort of positive effect, but it’s about all that we have.

And it’s not just enough to defeat McCain. The media will try to spin his loss of the conservative base in any way BUT as a Bill of Rights issue. Defeating McCain would be only the first step. The 2nd is to make sure everyone knows why he was really defeated.

If McCain wins, conservatives who support him will bear much responsibility for whatever assaults on the 1st Amendment he decides to pursue.

If Hillary wins, she will control the media machine through the usual tactics of intimidation, and it won’t do much good to have defeated McCain. But Obama might by temperment be disinclined to pursue the shutting down of dissent that most in his party desire. The knowledge that conservatives managed to defeat McCain on this issue might give have a salutary effect on him.

It’s not much, but with free speech under assault around the globe –Chavez shutting down radio stations, Democrats wanting to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, Putin having journalists murdered, Bill Clinton (who ordinarily cares a lot about what kind of photos of him get printed) getting hugs from the guy who had a dissident journalist decapitated, Ezra Levant being hauled before a tribunal — the list goes on and on. We have to use what little is left in our arsenal to defend it.