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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who needs a shield law

Late last week Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signed a bill which creates a reporter's shield law designed to protect anonymous sources.
The Kansas Legislature has been working on this bill since 2002 and final impetus for the law was given by the case of Claire O'Brien, formerly of the Dodge City Daily Globe.
O'Brien was working on a story about a man, Samuel Bonilla, who was accused of murdering one man and of trying to kill another.
A local bail bondsman, Rebecca Escalante came to O'Brien and told her she would have been happy to bail Bonilla out, but that she felt his life would be in danger, a source who requested to remain anonymous also told O'Brien the same thing adding that Tanner Brunson, the man who was wounded in the shooting, has a "base of support that is well-known for its anti-Hispanic beliefs."
This is of course possible, I'm a native of Dodge City and the western Kansas town is roughly 50 percent hispanic. There are long-standing racial tensions in Dodge between hispanics and whites which may very well have played a factor in this case.
So far so good.
Enter Ford County Attorney Terry Malone, who read the story and proceeded to subpoena O'Brien to reveal the source.
O'Brien refused and a court battle that went all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court ensued.
She was ordered to appear at an inquisition, the Kansas equivalent of a grand jury, and testify. She failed to appear and was charged with contempt.
The anonymous source eventually came forth on his own, and Bonilla pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
Now we have limited protections in Kansas law to keep journalists from being forced to reveal their sources.
I'm a bit conflicted on this.
The general theory is that sources will not come forward to reveal wrong doing by government if they know their names will be revealed. Likewise sources whose life may be put in danger by the revelation of their name also will not talk to reporters.
So far as it goes that's true enough.
But, as always, there's a catch.
Journalists have gotten entirely too fond of the anonymous source.
In Washington “sources close to the administration” or “sources within the Pentagon” or whatever institution you want to name, are regularly quoted.
These “leaks” are often deliberate by administration officials who are using the media as their mouth piece – not legitimate whistle blowers who need the protection of anonymity.
I am of course, that rara avis, the conservative journalist.
But my first journalism instructor, Stacy Sparks, was and probably still is, very much a liberal. I still have great respect for Stacy, or “Sparky” as we sometimes called her, mostly behind her back.
Stacy taught me that ethically, anonymous sources were only to be used in extreme circumstances and reporters should never grant anonymity unless we were ready and willing to go to jail to protect that source.
This new law also creates a privilege for reporters on the level of doctors and lawyers. I have issues with this as well – we are neither – and this takes a group of people who, at the upper levels of the profession, tend to regard themselves as some sort of elite and gives them more reason to look at themselves as such.
Well I hate to tell the Keith Olbermann's of the world this, but we're not.
Not that this is not a highly technical profession requiring a very specialized skill set – it is and does.
Most reporters are guys (and gals) just like me – overworked and underpaid professionals who do this job not for the pay, or the acclimation, but because we love it and we have a real belief that what we do is important.
I, for one, am afraid these shield laws do nothing but encourage the ivory tower mentality I've seen infect too many of my peers over the years.
We must be more careful about who and when we grant anonymity. I believe our credibility, which is never high, is eroded even further when we allow ourselves to be used as mouthpieces for “anonymous” sources which anyone with a brain knows are highly placed officials with orders to “leak” the information in order to give plausible deniability to their principals.
Stacy taught me that our job was to be a watchdog of government, regardless of who was in office and irrespective of our political persuasion – to find the facts, follow them wherever they lead, report them fairly and accept the consequences, knowing that this is a profession where we will never be loved and will often be blamed for reporting the facts others would rather were not known.
I don't need a law to protect me while I do it.
All IMHO of course.

The death of capitalism

serf (sûrf)
1. A member of the lowest feudal class, attached to the land owned by a lord and required to perform labor in return for certain legal or customary rights.
Capitalism died Sunday.
With the passage of the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday and it's proposed signing today, we now find ourselves vassals of the state, not free Americans.
Sound dramatic?
This supposed "reform" mandates people carry health care much like those who own a car are mandated to carry auto insurance.
Never before in history have Americans been forced to purchase something whether they feel they need it or not. If you don't want to purchase car insurance, you don't buy a car. If we don't want to buy health insurance what are we supposed to do? Commit suicide?
So now, in order to maintain our customary and legal right to life we must purchase insurance. The Internal Revenue Service will be checking to make sure you have purchased the insurance — and this new law provides criminal penalties if you don't buy.
That's right, the lord of the manor can put you in debtor's prison if you don't pay your rent in return for your "legal" and "customary" rights.
One-sixth of the American economy is now in the hands of the government, barring some legal challenges — and I have very little faith in the courts.
The more of the economy the government and the current regime takes over, the more we are beholden to the state.
And yes I said regime, and I meant it. What else do you call a government which does not obey it's own laws? A president who cares little for the constitution and only for his own power?
We have a chance in November to perhaps turn some of this back — but I have little confidence that any change we make then is going to matter — or that the current regime will allow it to matter.
I expect wide-spread fraud of the type that swept a lousy stand up comic like Al Franken into the senate in Minnesota.
I expect the sorts of fraud that was found being committed by ACORN in multiple states in the last two elections — and interestingly enough, those cases keep getting ignored by the Obama Justice Department.
But then, feudal lords owe protection to their vassals and are arbiters of the law, so of course the Department of Justice has decided these cases are not worth prosecuting.
More and more we find ourselves and our basic freedoms hemmed in and taken away.
If we don't want to find ourselves slaves to the state we must wake up, we must be the awakened giant the Japanese found after Pearl Harbor. We must hold the politicians accountable and root out corruption where ever we find it.
We must say with Howard Beale from the movie Network; "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
And we must make sure they hear our voices — as they chose to ignore them when we said no before this vote.
Anyone who voted to make you a serf, a slave to the state, must be removed from office.
We must no longer play nice, and try to be above the fray. It is time to get down in the dirt and fight.
It is time to use their own tactics against them. They have chosen this fight.
In all our history true Americans have never backed down from a fight — and we have always won them.
This one we must win.
We must return our government to it's constitutional limits — before that document is forgotten and we are a land of lords and serfs.
I think we fought England to keep that from happening.
All IMHO of course.

Government sponsored vacations one more part of what's wrong with the world

According to European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry Antonio Tajani tourism is no longer a luxury -- it's a right.
That's right folks, that trip to Sin City? The government needs to subsidize it.
Want to visit Hawaii? Sure thing brother step right up!
The overall stupidity of this idea is so blindingly obvious that I'm almost speechless – but only almost, I do write for a living after all.
I appreciate the eruption of the volcano in Iceland caused a huge disruption in travel in Europe (whether the huge airspace closure was really needed or not we'll leave for another time) but travel a human right? Really?
Granted this guy was appointed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who likely feels everyone should have a government-sponsored opportunity to get away from their legion of mistresses – but I digress.
The Times Online of London reported Tajani said that “Traveling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life.”
I see.
So if I choose to spend my holiday (that's vacation to us 'Murricans) at home working in my yard (unlikely, I hate yard work, but then again I don't get vacations very often either) my quality of life is bad then?
And if so then I must have a vacation subsidized by the government in order to feel good about my life.
Of course, the EU pilot program doesn't say you get to take your vacation where ever you want.
'Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.”
Further, the Times Online reports Northern Europeans would be encouraged to visit southern Europe and vice versa.
And now we come to the nub of the issue.
This is your typical progressive idea.
“We must promote understanding and diversity,” the logic goes, and of course the only way to do that is for government to tell people what to do and where to spend other people's money. The whole thing makes you think you're in a Kafka novel!
The silliness of the left would be amusing if it weren't so frightening.
They consistently take a bad idea, decide it's a good one despite it's demonstrable unworkability in the real world and then make a government program out of it.
Take social security, the money I pay in out of my day job paycheck is used to pay the benefits for the people who are currently retired, and then the money collected from my kids will be used to pay my benefits.
This only works so long as there are more people paying than collecting. Anywhere but government this is called a pyramid or ponzi scheme and gets people sent to jail (Bernie Madoff anyone?)
The sad part is that people will actually take this seriously, once you give someone an entitlement it becomes nearly impossible to take it away again.
France has had this problem – it is nearly impossible to fire anyone and the length of the work week is limited by law.
As financial problems in France intensified and it became clear steps were needed to change the situation, the French government tried to change this state of affairs and riots ensued.
This stupid idea and others like it have given us the modern welfare state.
Once again it was an idea that looked good on paper that simply didn't work in the real world, and took years to fix.
The logic was fairly simple, some people for one reason or another are poor and out of work – they need a helping hand, we'll give them some money.
The result was predictable to anyone who wasn't blinded by ideology. If you pay people not to work, they won't work, there's no incentive to get a job. Worse, if you pay people to help the poor you have people who won't be paid if there are no poor. So in typical bureaucratic fashion – they'll find some.
The economic problems the world faces aren't particularly difficult to fix. As Charlie Martin pointed out in one of his pieces, all that is required is to make sure that spending doesn't grow faster than Gross Domestic Product. So long as that doesn't happen eventually you pay off your deficits and have a surplus. The problem is bureaucrats spawn programs like Tiger Woods trolling a pancake house for his latest mistress in order to justify their jobs.
Step one is to get rid of boneheads like Tajani and step two is to eliminate leftist whackjobs from government.
Remember the 9th of November folks. It may be the last chance we have to keep the USA from following Europe down the rabbit hole of Socialism.