Diane Feinstein Seeks To Limit 1st Amendment Rights Of Bloggers
By Dr. Harold Pease
In a recent headlined story of the Los Angeles Times, “Bill to protect journalists clears Senate panel,” The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a 13-5 vote, proposed to forward Dianne Feinstein’s bill to limit 1st Amendment rights of bloggers. Although hailed as a protection for “real” journalists it allows the government to define such and establish criteria for those reporting on the government and other news events. Such has infuriated the younger generation who get most, if not all, of their news from websites and believe that anyone has the right to report any news that they witness. It also offends Constitutionalists who believe it to be a serious violation of the First Amendment.
Feinstein ostensibly targets bloggers who reveal national security information, which today is expanded to virtually anything negative of the government, but her example is “a 17-year old with his own website.” To get an emotional reaction, she links the 17-year old in possession of a “five dollar” website with Edward Snowden’s extraction of classified information, a most unrealistic scenario. Besides many believe Snowden’s whistle-blowing revelations justifiable because the federal government had gone far beyond acceptable limits when it recorded everyone’s email, Facebook and phone messages, which it still does.
At issue is whether the media shield laws, which most states have, apply to bloggers as well as journalists. This allows reporters, who report information that the government does not want disclosed, to be shielded from having to reveal their sources to the government. The Feinstein amendment to the federal Media Shield Law (itself constitutionally questionable) would limit the law’s protection only to “real reporters,” not alternative media types like bloggers.
Housed in the Feinstein bill were phrases “covered journalist” and “legitimate news-gathering activities,” obviously only “professional mainstream journalists”—criteria that could exempt even this column. Therein lies the problem. Who is a “legitimate” reporter and who will decide? And if this law were in place who would dare criticize the government? In a free country the government cannot be in charge of its own criticism.
To be an “approved journalist” S. 987, the Feinstein Amendment, requires such to meet one of the following criteria: one must work as a “salaried employee . . . for any continuous three-month period within the two years prior to the relevant date” or, have “substantially contributed . . . a significant number of articles . . . within two years prior to the relevant date” or worked as a “student journalist at an institution of higher education.” The effect is to control the media by controlling those who are the media.
Throughout world history tyrannical governments have attempted to control two things to preserve their power: information and weapons. Kings always fear negative information about their governance and work to eliminate such when possible; then weapon control is less needed. But when they fail to stop the dissemination of negative information weapon control, in our case gun control, becomes critically important to them. The more regimental a government becomes the greater their desire to restrict information and weapons. We are no different. It is no accident that the Bill of Rights identifies and removes these possibilities from the federal government altogether. Amendment I, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” and, Amendment II,“ . . . the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Sorry Senator Feinstein you cannot define the press, nor can you make law with respect to it, most certainly none that limits free press as is the effect of your bill. Many feel that the Internet and blogs are the only real free press that we have for exactly the reason that you wish to limit it—anyone can put anything they wish on it. Libel and slander laws still function to keep disclosures honest should they hurt the innocent. The defense of John Peter Zenger against libel charges in 1735 is often seen as the cornerstone of press freedom. He was found innocent when he railed against the corrupt colonial governor because it was the truth. Your legislation appears merely to be a veiled attempt to damage or end the free press. See video of her offering amendment in question at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bywtn9RIDRw
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.
Something We Can Both Agree On: Country Should Come Before Party
By Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY)
Far too often, people these days focus on our differences instead of what brings us together. And more than ever, America has felt like a nation divided, not states united. But some of us are working hard to change that because we know we can do better than this.
Although one of us is a Democrat from Illinois and one a Republican from New York, we both strongly believe that loyalty to our country should come before that to our party. Our hardworking constituents elected us not to point fingers, but to lead. Not to cause problems, but to find common sense solutions to the big issues of the day.
That is why both of us joined the bipartisan group called ‘No Labels’ and have been named Congressional Problem Solvers. We represent a diverse range of viewpoints and beliefs, but are united in our desire to put partisanship aside and find ways to work together.
The recent government shutdown was a product of ongoing political games that both parties have played, where there was too much focus on political winners and losers and not enough on what’s best for our constituents. This has created persistent gridlock in Congress and governing from crisis to crisis. As a former newspaper reporter and Army officer, we were as frustrated by this as the people we represent.
So, while talking heads on cable news fueled this partisan standoff, we met daily with our No Labels colleagues. We sometimes had heated discussions, but every morning over coffee we worked to find middle ground and do our part to resolve the crisis. We knew that although we wouldn’t agree on every proposal put forth, we had to keep a dialogue going or we’d face something worse than a shutdown- economic disaster.
Perhaps most importantly, throughout those breakfast meetings, we built an increased level of trust and a respect for our shared commitment to working together that will serve us well in future debates in Congress. Extreme voices on both sides often get the most attention, but we No Labels Problem Solvers are living proof that reasonable lawmakers still exist, and are dedicated to breaking through the partisan gridlock for the good of our nation.
We both represent parts of the country where hardworking people have a simple expectation- that their elected officials get things done. That they put politics aside and do what it takes to make government work for the people- like it’s supposed to.
We’re committed to continuing to do our part to change the culture in Washington and hope that more of our colleagues join us in No Labels. Civility is an easy concept. People don’t expect us to agree on every issue, but they expect good governance and leaders that put the needs of our nation first.
Congressman Chris Gibson represents the 19th Congressional District of New York. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos represents the 17th Congressional District of Illinois. Both are members of No Labels and Congressional Problem Solvers.
By Brian Stewart
IL State Representative, 89th District
Last Saturday I had the good fortune to spend most of the day in Jo Daviess County visiting with businesses and constituents. My first stop was in Elizabeth where Mayor Mike Dittmar had arranged a tour of the offices of Jo-Carroll Energy (jocarroll.com). Several of their leadership staff came in and spoke about their organization. For those of you who are not familiar with them, they are a member-owned cooperative providing electric, natural gas, and high performance internet services to members in Jo Daviess, Carroll, Whiteside, and Henry counties. With the exception of Henry County, all or a portion of the other counties are in the 89th District. In most instances they are the only reliable option for the services they provide and are very important to the residents of this region. Access to cost effective and reliable utilities is a key factor in economic development for which they play a vital role. Thank you to Kyle Buros, Merri Sevey, and Chris Allendorf for spending some time on a Saturday afternoon.
My next stop was the new state-of-the-art Midwest Medical Center (midwestmedicalcenter.org) in Galena which became the first replacement Critical Access Hospital to open its doors in Illinois. Prior to that they were known as the Galena-Strauss Hospital. We were met there by President & CEO Tracy Bauer, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ralph Losey, MD., and other members of their leadership team and board members. I received a tour of their entire facility and each of their departments. I was warmly greeted by staff and much appreciated them taking the time to explain the resources of the hospital which is vital to the residents and visitors of the Galena area.
The previous two paragraphs may appear to be ads for those organizations but plain and simple, they are not. We need to celebrate their successes and talk about the businesses and organizations in our region that contribute to our vitality and overall well-being. Tourism is a key component to Northwest Illinois and in the event a visitor or resident needs quick access due to an unfortunate accident or health crisis you have a key facility in close proximity. Both organizations are essential to our continued economic prosperity.
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent visiting the many shops and restaurants in downtown Galena with Bob Schlicting. This was also a very special evening as it was their Annual Halloween Parade. I had not yet had the opportunity to participate in that event, and I was certainly in for an evening of fun. My estimates were that there must have been more than ten thousand people in attendance from throughout the tri-state region. Age certainly did not matter for those in costume as it is just as much for the kids as it is for the adults. I cannot begin to describe the costumes of the people or the costumes of the vehicles. Yes, cars and trucks were in costume, too. Though costumes were optional, I was not dressed as a politician. This was a great event and our region and businesses benefited greatly. The restaurants were packed while the hotels, motels, B & B’s, and Inns were sold out. For those who have not experienced the Halloween Parade, make sure to attend next year and see your dentist afterwards because of the large amounts of candy given out!
While I go back to Springfield for the second week of the Fall Veto Session, I am looking forward to solving the problems of our state. I do not quite know yet if it will be “Trick or Treat?”