Farewell To Privacy. Hello To Arms

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copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The Courts and Congress have come to believe there is reason for fear.  Enemies are everywhere.  Those who wish to do us harm are in our homes.  They talk to us on our telephones.  Some sashay in through our computers.  “Evil doers” are ubiquitous in the United States.  Our open society places the public at risk.  We, the people, must defend ourselves.  Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have given the government and us the means.  The highest judicial body in the nation has made it possible for the common man to protect himself with a pistol; Legislators provided the President ethereal firearms.  Indeed, individuals and the Commander-In-Chief were bequeathed more than either had asked for.  In 2008, we have entered the Summer of Separation.  In the United States we say, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

Absorbed in fear, Americans have detached themselves from the original intent of the United States Constitution.  We the people have embraced weaponry and rejected our right to privacy.  The populace, with assistance from Congress willingly chose to forfeit the Fourth Amendment.  authentic freedoms were  disemboweled.  If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA) stands, and there is no reason to think a Bill signed into law by the President of the United States and each House of Congress would not be fully implemented, the press and the people will no longer have unfettered access to information.  Nor can they disseminate data without intense scrutiny.  Chris Hedges, a twenty year veteran Foreign Correspondent for The New York Times, speaks to a truth that he lived and now fears will die.

The new FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance.  It allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants.  The court will not be told specifics about who will be wiretapped, which means the law provides woefully inadequate safeguards to protect innocent people whose communications are caught up in the government’s dragnet surveillance program.

The law, passed under the guise of national security, ostensibly targets people outside the country.  There is no question, however, that it will ensnare many communications between Americans and those overseas.  Those communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments.

This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East.  It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists, and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours.  It will hang like the sword of Damocles over all who dare to defy the official versions of events.  It leaves open the possibility of retribution and invites the potential for abuse by those whose concern is not with national security but with the consolidation of their own power.

Trepidation has long been a tool for intimidation.  A frightened fellow or female will happily adopt a policy or a pistol to relieve apprehension.  Perhaps, that it why after the events of September 11, 2001, Americans, panicked and the power elite prospered.  As the Twin Towers fell, the people cried out for protection.  Congress gleefully approved the Patriot Act; and as a nation, we pursued a course of action that was and is contrary to Constitutional principles.  Even early on, Americans said,  “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

As the war thundered on, the public worked to avoid greater anxiety.  People purchased more guns for personal safety sake.  They feared the government might not be able to shield them from all potential harms.  Indeed, this attitude has been ubiquitous in American history.  The Wild West outlook often overrides logic or Constitutional law.  In America, there have been many Summers of Separation.

When humans think weaponry is the solution, as they do in a country where there are ninety guns per every one hundred U.S. residents, they will grab a pistol when faced with any problem.  The availability of petroleum has become a paradox.  Prices for fuel and food are high.  The cost for shelter is higher.  Homes are in foreclosure.  Job security is but a myth.  Employer provided benefits are elusive.  The cost for Health Care coverage is out of reach; yet, the gun that could end it all is close.

Immigration is also an issue that irks many in America.  When migrants flee to the States in search of financial freedom, the native-born feel further threatened.  The divide between the races causes much resentment.  Income inequity offers reason for rage.  Economic slavery causes tempers to rise.  In 2008, the effect of all these predicaments troubles the populace.   The American public is aggravated.  Currently, people feel less safe, less strong, and more scared.  Millions ponder.  Force can seem the great equalizer.  Hence, gun ownership is great.  The Small Arms Survey, released in August 2007 reveals Americans have a ready arsenal.

With fewer than five per cent of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35-50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

The report went on to state that the common folk are better equipped with weaponry than law enforcement or the military might be.  Civilians who reside in cities, suburbs, and those who dwell in the countryside possess the vast majority of total firearms owned in the United States.  Citizens in a country built on might will use firepower to retain what they believe is their right. If they are refused the privilege to pack heat, Americans will seek recourse by any means.

Special-forces policeman Heller, a resident of Washington District of Columbia certainly did.  The lawman, aware that anyone on the street might be armed sought solace in a piece of hardware.  Mister Heller applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home; the District denied his request since, at the time, the District of Columbia forbade civilian handgun ownership.  Disgruntled, and prepared for battle, as Americans often are, Officer Heller filed a legal suit.  He stated his Second Amendment Rights were violated.  The Supreme Court agreed.

A review of the actual Second Amendment which states Americans have the Right to “bear arms in times when a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State,” or research might have led the Justices to decide otherwise.  Nonetheless, in a summer steeped with separation from acumen, the Supreme Court ruled civilian gun ownership is a right.

The Administration, policymakers, and pundits think the decision wise.  After all, it is a dangerous world.  Americans need to be prepared to fight the ominous foe  Fifteen years ago,   near half of American households understood this.  People built arsenals.  Thirty-one percent of adult Americans owned a firearm in 1993.  Still, that armory was not enough to protect the citizenry from attack.  Years later, the munitions stored,  while likely larger, were no better protection.

Crimes occurred outside the home, on the streets of any given community and , just as predicted, some transgressions traumatized those within four walls. Few Americans ponder the weightier aspects of artillery in the American home.

Earlier this year (1997), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a mind-boggling report showing that the U.S. firearm-related homicide rate for children was 16 times higher than the combined rate for children in 25 other industrialized countries.  Meanwhile, the U.S. child rate of firearm related suicide was 11 times higher. . .

Last year, Congress nearly slashed the budget for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), which collects and monitors firearm injury data and funds related research as part of its mission.  As a result of new funding mandates, CDC this year has been forced to dramatically reduce its firearm-related injury research, and CDC-funded gunshot injury surveillance programs will come to an end in several states.

All this comes at a time when gunshot injuries are expected to soon outstrip automobile accidents as the number one cause of injury death in the U.S., costing an estimated $20 billion yearly in medical costs and lost productivity.  Surprisingly little medical research monitors the kinds of firearm injuries that occur or the types of guns used.  While the CDC samples unshot injury data from 91 hospitals around the country, there is no comprehensive national surveillance system to accurately track how many people are wounded by guns each year..

Surveillance is the sham used to explain what Federal officials think a greater priority.  Those who have more power than a weapon might wield understand the statistics on civilian gun wounds would not please or appease Americans.  Information on gun injury might shift the fear factor.  If the people are to remain focused on foreign forces, then FISA, the Bill that keeps on giving to the politically powerful, will remain safe, and after all, is that not the truer issue.  As foreign correspondent Christopher Hedges reminds us . . .

It (the law) is about using terrorism (at home or abroad) as a pretext to permit wholesale spying and to silence voices that will allow us to maintain an open society.

Thankfully, when prized pistols are in question, it is easy to silence voices of dissent.  Physicians were not asked to speak before the Supreme Court shot down a ban on gun sales.  Had they had the opportunity Americans and the Justices might have heard  . . .

Doctors worried by Supreme Court gun ruling

By Maggie Fox

Reuters

Wed Jul 9, 2008 7:44pm EDT

Washington (Reuters) – Last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a strict gun control law in the U.S. capital will lead to more deaths and accidental injuries, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine said on Wednesday.

They joined a growing clamor from medical doctors, especially emergency room physicians, who fear a surge of accidental deaths, murders, and suicides if handguns become more easily available than they already are.

The ruling struck down a law in Washington that forbade personal ownership of handguns.  The court made explicit, for the first time, that Americans had rights as individuals to own guns.

It won praise from President George W. Bush, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and guns rights advocates (and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama)

Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted with the 5-4 majority on the decision, said citizens may prefer handguns for home defense because they “can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.”

Perchance, Justice Scalia would be comforted to know, that with thanks to his cohorts  in the Legislative Branch, when a city dweller or a rural resident telephones for assistance, he or she can be comforted by the thought the authorities are very close by.  Indeed, public officials may be plugged into the individual’s phone, and computer.  In the Summer of Separation, as powerbrokers in one part of Washington said , “Hello To Arms,” those on the other side of the Hill proclaimed, “Farewell To Privacy.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act established thirty years ago was all but rescinded.  The court system created to help public officials in a crisis is no longer needed to swiftly serve warrants when an investigation is requested.  The Constitution has been compromised.

Lawmakers are already justifying their votes for making major changes to that proven regime by saying that the bill is a reasonable compromise that updates FISA technologically and will make it somewhat harder to spy on Americans abroad. But none of that mitigates the bill’s much larger damage. It would make it much easier to spy on Americans at home, reduce the courts’ powers, and grant immunity to the companies that turned over Americans’ private communications without a warrant.

It would allow the government to bypass the FISA court and collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without a warrant simply by declaring that it is doing so for reasons of national security. It cuts the vital “foreign power” provision from FISA, never mentions counterterrorism and defines national security so broadly that experts think the term could mean almost anything a president wants it to mean.

The President is abundantly pleased.  The present Commander-In-Chief is now assured ultimate power.  Future potential Chief Executives, one of whom voted to support this conciliatory commitment to telecommunication companies, will forever retain the “right” to be spy on the citizenry.   In the Summer of Separation, cognitive and Constitutional dissonance is secure.  Congress and the courts assured us of this.

Congress cast aside the Fourth Amendment,  The Supreme Court rescinded the essence of the Second Amendment.  Our countrymen are now be free to carry a gun, and chat on an open line with the trigger cocked.  Former President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt  told us “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”  Perhaps, the prominent predecessor could not have predicted a day when citizens would be convinced to embrace fretfulness, to forego freedom, and to sing, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to Arms.”

References and Rights . . .

Democratic National Committee Dictates Law; Denies Kucinich Constitutional Rights

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert>

I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!

~ Will Rogers [1879-1935]

Those were the days, now long past.  When Author, Philosopher, Philanthropist Will Rogers was alive, people had the freedom to think  for themselves.  Citizens were not told they must follow the lead of autocrats.  Less than one hundred years ago, the United States Constitution was considered the supreme law of the land.  In the twenty-first century, the Democratic National Committee sets the standards.  Party officials determined that law abiding Congressman, and Presidential hopeful, Dennis Kucinich will not appear on the Texas primary ballot.

The parchment pronouncement that once guided our nation was adopted on September 17, 1787.  The framers accepted the principles outlined on behalf of the “People.”  Later, each state ratified the text in order to affirm these laws acceptable to all citizens of this new country.  Indeed, according to the terms laid down in the Constitution, in a democratic nation, the common folk have a right to choose what decrees will govern them.  The populace decides how laws will be implemented.  The general public also selects who will enforce the edicts.  

Although the United States Constitution was sanctioned, long before the birth of esteemed and Syndicated Columnist Will Rogers, reverence for the document remained throughout Rogers’ life.  Today the eleventh commandment governs the people.  A person of a particular political persuasion shall not criticize or condemn another individual within the alliance.  The penalties for any violation are strict.  A lawful declared Presidential candidate can be removed from a state ballot if he decides to stand in support of a peaceful philosophy.

On January 3, 2008, Congressman, and Presidential aspirant, Dennis Kucinich Filed a Lawsuit With U.S. District Court.  The man intimately familiar with the United States Constitution, with the support of the law would not agree to endorse the Democratic nominee whomever that shall be.  

Dennis Kucinich believed as the Constitution states, he has the right to support the candidate of his choice.  

As Americans, we cannot be required to vote in accordance with a Party decree.  Yet, under the National Democratic Committee diktat any aspirant who does not sign a statement, which commits them to forego their right to freedom and choice will not be placed on the state ballot.  In this situation, even officials within a given region do not have the authority to override the Party statute.

Kucinich Files Lawsuit With U.S. District Court

January 3, 2008

Thursday, Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich found out he’s off the Texas ballot.  That’s because the Texas Democratic Party said his application was “defective.”

There was a hearing in federal court about this controversy around 11 a.m. Thursday.

On the application, candidates must sign an oath that requires them to support the Democratic nominee, whoever that shall be.

Kucinich crossed out that section.  The Texas Democratic Party said it contacted the Kucinich campaign, and they told them he would sign it on the condition that the nominee pledge not use war as part of foreign relations.

It turns out the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party does not have the authority to allow such a change, because the Democratic Executive Committee and the Democratic National Committee approve the applications.

Since Kucinich did not resubmit his application by the deadline, he has been taken off of the Texas primary ballot.  It doesn’t end there.

Kucinich, along with his faithful supporter Willie Nelson, have filed a civil lawsuit with the U.S. District Court, requesting a temporary restraining order, charging that such a “blind loyalty oath” is a violation of the 1st and 14th amendment.

The outline of principles by which America is governed, has been amended twenty-seven times.  None of those modification allowed for the possibility that if one Party or another assumed an autocratic posture, all the individuals within that delegation must do as the leaders dictate.  Yet, more than a century later, despotic rule is the law of the land.  Apparently, we are told there is just cause for such a change.  Dictums are designed with reason.

The chairman of the Texas Democratic Party said the oath is there for a reason.

“I think it’s important for party unity.  I think it’s important for association of people of like minds, so that we don’t have a situation where you’ve got someone who says, ‘Well, I’m going to take advantage of running under your banner,'” said Texas Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie.

There was a time when to be a Democrat was to be free to think for one self.  Unity existed within the Party; people shared common principles.  The façade of agreement does not advance harmony.  Divisions cannot be eliminated by demand.  Yet, the Democrats, who no longer support the doctrine of freedom and justice for all, defensively declare despotic rule works well.  They do not tell us for whom.

While Freedom of Speech, the First Amendment of the constitution, in the Bill of Rights provides and protects our right to express our opinions, the Democratic National Committee does not recognize this canon.

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.

On the other hand, perhaps they do.  Perchance, Democratic leaders proclaim, they are not Congress.  Thus, they can restrict the right to free speech.  The Party of the people apparently believes they are privileged, above the law.  The Progressive powerbrokers who call tell us they protect our rights, deny us what the Constitution provides.

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . .

Again, we can only conclude that what the Constitutions affords our citizens, does not apply when Party politics are involved.  Presidential aspirants, who threaten the corporate culture and the candidates the elite sponsor cannot be given a chance, regardless of  conformity with reasonable writs.

Except for Kucinich’s refusal to sign the oath, his application is in compliance with the state’s party requirements.

When an individual lives within a totalitarian territory, such as the Democratic Party, any offense might be punishable by omission.  If the Democratic National Committee believes they have the “right” to deny the citizenry their vote, what else might they think true.  Watch your words, your p’s, and q’s.  Argue against the rulers and you may find yourself diminished and denied a choice, a Dennis Kucinich Presidency.

Sores and Sources . . .

Media is Threatened, Mainstream and the Individuals on Internet ©

(Because we the People are important – promoted by Betsy L. Angert)

I have not come to terms with what seems contradictory.  This year, Time Magazine chose you, us, Internet users as the persons of the year.  Time editors recognized citizens are creating and documenting the news.  We, the people have ample access.  Currently, we have freedom of speech; yet, simultaneously, this right is threatened.

Only days ago, we escaped Internet embargoes by the skin of our teeth, or more accurately, corporate moguls that provide access to the Internet extended our service, as is, for two more years. Communication companies such as AT&T and SBC are merging.  Powerful conglomerates are being formed and these enterprises are deciding what privileges we, the users will have.

Businesses will choose when we  will login, and how much they will charge us for the service.  Large firms are assessing who will be the preferred customer, who will receive a financial break on their bill, and how to implement their policies.

Yet, at the same time, citizen journalism is a constant.  Print newspaper organizations are realizing a need to change.  Profits are down; readership is no longer loyal.  Companies are cutting their staff, while bloggers are increasing theirs.  No one writer can make it alone.  Resources as refined as those of traditional publishers are necessary.

For years, the public has believed Mainstream Media was out of touch.  Many Americans fear the White House or those within it make the news and pass the message on to journalist.  This quandary was realized in the Watergate years; it continued to grow.  Sam Donaldson wrote of it in “Hold On Mr. President.”  Ronald Reagan kept his distance.  Reports were designed for the Press Room.

Since George W. Bush hit the Washington scene, the delivery of authentic news worsened.  The Government Accounting Office has reprimanded the Bush Administration repeatedly.  Its use of propaganda is abhorrent and abundant.  President Bush and those working for him or with him were rebuked for paying correspondents to distribute their message.

During the current Bush II reign Internet usage has increased.  The public turns to bloggers for their news.  Citizen Journalism is a powerful force.  Is it equal to that of communication conglomerates?  I wonder.  Will the industry be able to put the freedom now available on the Internet back in the bottle.  I trust they will try; they already have  and are doing so successfully.

I can only ask; will an all too apathetic public be willing to succumb to the strategies that AT&T and government agencies may wish to impose?

I offer the following dialogue for your review.  Tonight on Public Broadcasting Services News Hour citizen journalism and the mainstream media was the topic of discussion.  The dialogue coupled with a report I offered days ago, Ma Bell; She’s Back. Net Neutrality in Jeopardy ©, evokes my inquiry.

Future of news media
Nick Lemann, starting with you, there you are at a leading journalism school, no doubt thinking and talking about the future of the news media. To what extent does that conversation focus on the Internet and a shift in the business?

NICHOLAS LEMANN, Columbia University: To a huge extent. I mean, it’s this year — particularly it’s been just about all we talk about. Just this morning, we sent out invitations to our annual faculty retreat after the holiday break, and that will be 100 percent devoted to the question of how we do more Internet in our curriculum. So it’s very much top of mind for us.

JEFFREY BROWN: Adam Powell, is it happening? To what extent do you see it happening, the shift?

ADAM CLAYTON POWELL III, University of Southern California: The shift is huge, and it’s going in a direction which I don’t think we can see yet. By the end of next year, we’re going to be seeing some innovations which are going to be striking, almost science fiction.

JEFFREY BROWN: Science fiction?

ADAM CLAYTON POWELL III: Yes, 3-D visualizations, the ability to do micro-local news down to your block in your neighborhood. But old media aren’t going away.

We still have radio; we still have AM radio; we still have short-wave radio; we still have newspapers; we still have magazines. Life, Look and Collier’s went away, but they were replaced by even more magazines, so it simply becomes more crowded, more fragmented, but still with innovation.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mark Jurkowitz, what do you see? Is it possible to think of a balance of power shift?

MARK JURKOWITZ, Project for Excellence in Journalism: Well, the power is shifting, but it hasn’t shifted yet completely to new media. I mean, in a year when YouTube sells for $1.6 billion, we know where a lot of the energy in the media are going.

But as Adam points out, the old media are not going anywhere. The fight for the future of some of America’s biggest newspapers, between public companies and potentially private owners, still shows they are valuable properties.

The fact that the major networks and CBS gambled on a new evening news anchor for a format that is believed to be sort of heading toward extinction means we are in an evolutionary phase, not a revolutionary phase, right now.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mary Hodder, what do you think, evolutionary or revolutionary? How do you describe it?

MARY HODDER, Dabble.com: Well, I guess coming from the new media side, you know, what we’re seeing is enormous. I know that old media, or what I would call legacy media, is not going away. Bloggers always rely on legacy media sources, and I think this is true as well for video.

You know, much of what’s uploaded to hosting sites like YouTube is traditional media. But the really, really big shift, the hugeness that I see, is the shift in control, its users programming for others what’s interesting.

And, you know, you’re taking it away from the Brandon Tarkentoffs (ph). You know, the legacy media companies in the past would tell us what was going to be on the, I don’t know, Sunday night line-up, but these days it’s users saying, you know, these five minutes out of Comedy Central’s, you know, show is the best thing, and everybody watches that.

Sources of news
JEFFREY BROWN: Mary, what are the main changes that you see in how people, especially young people, want to get their news, or where they look to get their news?

MARY HODDER: Well, I think part of it is, is that they’re going to shows, like the Comedy Central line-up. You know, it’s “The Daily Show” and all of that, and we’ve all heard this before, so that’s nothing new.

But what people are doing, especially younger folks, is they’re grabbing bits of that news from television, and they’re throwing it up online, and they’re sharing it with each other. So that’s a huge shift. They’re essentially doing the programming that traditional media used to do.

The other thing is, is that they’re making their own bits of news. I mean, you look at what happened at UCLA recently, the Tasering incident, which everybody saw. Well, what they were watching was other students’ cell phones having shot what, you know, the incident was and throwing that up online. That’s enormous.

So there’s content coming from both places, but I think the real shift is control. Who gets to decide what we watch has gone away. I’m deciding. My friends are deciding. Other folks on the Internet are deciding. And that sort of yanks the rug out from underneath legacy media in a way that we’ve never seen before.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Nick Lemann, how do you see legacy media, old media, whatever you want to call it, responding to these changes?

NICHOLAS LEMANN: Well, everybody is trying to figure it out. It doesn’t have to be an either/or, and this is one of the miraculous things about the Web.

Most traditional media are experimenting on the Web with some format where part of the site, part of the home page is devoted to traditionally produced content, and another part of the home page takes you into a world of reader-generated content, so you really don’t have to say, “We’re going all one way or all the other way.” It’s a wonderful medium to do both at once.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mark, how do you see this question of shifting and control and how old media is reacting?

MARK JURKOWITZ: Well, there’s no doubt about it: User-generated content, the idea that everyone in this era can become a journalist, is a very important fact and has knocked away some of the gatekeeper function.

Ah, the gatekeeper.  This may be the question and the answer.  Do we truly need a caretaker, a concierge, or a janitor?  The round table continued and talk of a business model was suggested.  In seems in this Capitalistic country, money is the maxim.

While many are making money through the Internet, the question was posed, what is “enough money.”  According to Jeffrey Brown of Public Brocadcasting Services

The nation’s second-largest newspaper chain, Knight-Ridder, ceased to exist, after selling its 32 papers to a smaller competitor, the McClatchy Company, in a $4.5 billion deal.

And shrinking circulation led to staff cuts at many prominent papers. At the Los Angeles Times, the publisher and editor were forced out when they refused to impose hundreds of corporate-mandated layoffs.

The L.A. Times and its parent, the Tribune Company, are also thought to be on the auction block.

Perhaps we might ask ourselves, is a focus on money making as profitable as many executives think.  If corporations do not serve their customers well, patrons will go elsewhere.  When providers are “free” to satisfy the needs of the consumers, they likely will.  The Internet shows us they have.

Conventional and costly print enterprises are struggling to compete with the information highway and citizen journalism.  Customers are canceling services.  We are at a crossroads. 

In practice when suppliers dictate demands, there is much dissatisfaction. 

We have witnessed conglomerates are often not creative, people are!  However, sadly, individuals rarely have the means to strut their stuff.  Opportunities are few.  We have one now.  A window is open, though the space is shrinking.

Currently, we have “net neutrality” and the Internet is infinity popular, even profitable for those that accept the assets freedom affords.  Notwithstanding, we cannot forget the power mongers; those that have the means, the money, and the where-with-all.  We must consider, at times, a large competitor can obliterate Ma and Pop.  Remember Wal-Mart! 

You may be the “Person of this year” and possibly even the next.  The recent AT&T contract agreement provides only two more years of certain freedom.  This is why I inquire, ultimately, who will survive?  If users are as the majority of American voters, apathetic, we have much to fear.

I invite each of you to consider the power you have.  Let no one or no organization take your freedoms away.

Net Neutrality lives or Dies . . .

  • Person of the year. By Lev Grossman. Time Magazine
  • New Media Develops Rapidly. Jeffery Brown Analysis. Guests Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Mary Hodder, founder and CEO of Dabble.com, Adam Clayton Powell III, director of the Integrated Media System Center, Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Public Broadcasting Services. January 1, 2007
  • Sam Donaldson Biography. Academy of Achievement.
  • Hold On, Mr. President, By Sam Donaldson
  • FAIR on Bush Admin Funding of Armstrong Williams: “The Government Is Running a Domestic Propaganda Operation Secretly Targeting The American People.” Democracy Now. January 11, 2005
  • GAO Says HHS Broke Laws With Medicare Videos, By Amy Goldstein.  Washington Post. Thursday, May 20, 2004; Page A01
  • pdf GAO Says HHS Broke Laws With Medicare Videos, By Amy Goldstein.  Washington Post. Thursday, May 20, 2004; Page A01
  • Americans Increase Internet Use in 2000. By Michael Pastore.  ClickZ Network.  February 21, 2001
  • Resignation at CNN Shows the Growing Influence of Blogs,By Katherine Q. Seelye.  New York Times.  February 14, 2005
  • pdf Resignation at CNN Shows the Growing Influence of Blogs,By Katherine Q. Seelye.  New York Times.  February 14, 2005
  • Ma Bell; She’s Back. Net Neutrality in Jeopardy ©,  By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • FCC approves AT&T-BellSouth merger, By Marguerite Reardon.  CNET News.com. December 29, 2006

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  • America. Freedom Of Speech, English Only ©

    Photograph By Jim Young

    I am dumbfounded or at least, wish I were.  America has once again proved itself xenophobic!  I awoke to the news, “Senate Votes to Set English as National Language.”  Apparently, on Thursday, May 18, 2006, the Senate agreed to declare English this nation’s official language.  The debate, prior to the formal poll was passionate.  The word “racism” was tossed about.  Nevertheless, the bigoted belied what they know to be correct and voted overwhelmingly to impose English upon all that enter this land.  The final vote was 63 in favor, 34 against.

    However, ‘moments later,’ the voice of reason filled the room, Senate members altered their stance slightly.  They again voted, and this time passed a less powerful amendment.  English would be titled the “unifying language.”  I ask how a divisive dictum can unify rather than divide.  Sadly, I am certain I will not receive an answer that I can comprehend.  According to Democratic Senator Harry Reid “Although the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist.  I believe it is directed at people who speak Spanish.”  Mr. Reid, I trust that is true.  America has become focused on Mexican immigrants.  This nation wants the “Brown” out!

    Our countrymen want to forcibly rid this nation of color, if they can.  Any method that might work will be initiated.  Though there are some voices of reason, Speaking of the situation, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, a leading opponent of immigration legislation stated, “The Senate should be ashamed of itself.”  There are also reluctant vocalizations within the Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republican from Tennessee, and potential Presidential candidate, declined to state whether he intends to vote for the plan.  He was willing to offer, “It’s [his decision is] certainly moving in that [the affirmative] direction.

    Should the Senate approve and House sign on, the President, our Emperor will need to accept the legislation.  Baby Bush is conflicted.  White House press secretary Tony Snow said, ‘‘What the President has said all along is that he wants to make sure that people who become American citizens have a command of the English language.  It’s as simple as that.”

    It is as simple as what?  Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speaking on the subject added to the confusion and complexity.  Gonzales declared, “The president has never supported making English the national language.”  The Attorney General then spoke for himself, ”I don’t see the need to have legislation or a law that says English is going to be the national language.”  However, Congress does, or is pretending to in order to please their constituents.

    The prejudiced population in this country presupposes that the English Only imposition is not enough to deter entrants’ citizenship.  Therefore, the formal standards will be made more stringent.  A working knowledge of the English language will not be acceptable; proficiency will be expected.  Congress also added other stricter regulations to the bill.  Mastery of United States history and government theory will be required.  There will be little consideration for competency.  An applicant will pass or fail, become a citizen or remain an “alien” because Americans are running scared and Congress is running for re-election.

    It is for this reason, that the Senate, for the first time in its history has passed such an amendment.  Sadly, states have engaged in similar restrictions for decades.  In America, English only has long been increasingly made the standard.

    For decades this nation and its “silent majority” have spoken.  Subtlety, though significantly, America, has passed restrictive language laws.  Of course, each of these specifies, “English only.”  Nationally English Only legislation first appeared in Congress in 1981.  A constitutional abridgement titled the, English Language Amendment was introduced.  This proposal was never ratified.  Had it been, English would already be America’s exclusive language.  Federal, state, and local governments would have banned all others.  The measure was not voted upon, even in Committee.  Now times have changed; we are more openly discriminating.

    However, it is important to note, since 1981, approximately thirty states have adopted English only legislation.  Four states had approved policies barring the use of other vernaculars prior to 1981.  Hawaii’s is officially bilingual, as is, Alaska.  Arizona attempted to prohibit the use of other forms of speech; it voters passed English-only initiatives; however, these were declared unconstitutional.  In 2002, Iowa became the twenty-seventh state to ratify an English only law.

    Division within the country called for such measures in local elections and now nationwide we will visit the idea.  Currently, citizens are in a tizzy.  They fear for their jobs.  Pensions are being pulled; health care is a privilege.  Outsourcing is the standard.  Life is not as stable as it once seemed to be.  People are apprehensive and nervous; when they call American companies, the voices on the telephone are foreign.  Here at home, the population is changing; neighbors no longer look as they once did.  White has taken flight or is merely out-numbered.  People feel great trepidation; they fear strangers.  Chauvinism and intolerance are on the rise.

    People are seeking solutions; they have explored many.  Logistically, America cannot deport the eleven to sixteen million immigrants that entered this country illegally.  Laws requiring employers to report questionable documentation are not enforced and therefore, do not work.  Homeowners sponsor illegal entrants by offering them jobs.  Trafficking is profitable, and thus the “problem” continues.  Imposing a language on the “illegals” seems to be the only or best response to a growing quandary.

    However, interestingly, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, English is widely spoken among immigrants. 

    Research studies show that over 95 percent of first generation Mexican Americans are English proficient, and that more than 50 percent of second generation, Mexican-Americans, have lost their native tongue entirely.  In addition, census data reveals that nearly 90 percent of Latinos five years old or older speak English in their households.  [And]  Ninety-eight percent of Latinos surveyed said they felt it is “essential” that their children learn to read and write English “perfectly.”

    Among these non-natives, education is the lost link.  Desire is strong, active attempts to acquire the English language stronger.  There is a shortage of English as a Second Language classes.  Few states offer such an option.  The states that do, receive little support.  Communities are reluctant to serve those they want out.

    Children of European descent think “Immersion” programs are best; no programs at all would be better.  After all, their parents learned to speak the language, or at least some did.  In years past communities were different and people learned, as they do today, based on need.  Their progeny forget or reject this.  In the last fifty years, “Language Acquisition” has been studied.  Experts offer various theories; however, all maintain fluency in a second language can be a challenge.

    The consensus is it takes approximately seven years to truly achieve fluency.  The first two typically involve listening more then use.  Private speech develops first.  Societal situations, circumstances with a given community, and the history of each individual influences what is learned and exhibited.  It is far easier to achieve expertise before the age of twelve.  Is that not the reason for the amendment, at least in part?  Eliminate entrance into America; require English proficiency.

    There are other motives for such a measure.  Eliminating the “Brown” is but one cause; elections are another.  Members of Congress want the support of their constituents.  Daily they receive a barrage of mail, electronic and snail.  Calls are placed and the voice of the voters is influential, more so than the voices of immigrants.  There is ample anxiety expressed.  “Who are these aliens and why are they living in my country?”

    Congress answered.  In December, the House passed the Sensenbrenner Bill and the nation exploded.  This law cut to the core; in country of eleven to sixteen million immigrants of questionable status, many were directly affected, or would be were this amendment became law.  The legislation would make it a federal crime to live in the United States without written permission.  Millions of immigrants that have long worked and resided in the States would become felons; they would be barred from ever obtaining legal status.

    According to this initial proposition, individuals who assist or shield undocumented migrants would be subject to prosecution.  Regardless of their title, an offender, be they a priest, nurse, or social worker, could face a five-year prison term.  If convicted of such a crime, authorities would have the legal right to seize a portion of the individual’s assets.  Spouses, and the employers of such émigrés would not escape judgment.  They too could find themselves in jail for an extended time.  Any association with an “alien” could be considered criminal.

    This proposed law spoke to the people that thought it worthy.  It also screamed to those in the helping fields and those actually working in the fields of this country.  This agenda spoke to the millions directly and indirectly affected by this plan.  The immigrants themselves stood up, shouted, and insisted they be noticed.  They were.  Millions of them flooded the streets, carried flags from their countries of origin [along with the red, white and blue], and they sang the American National Anthem in Spanish.  Sigh.

    If those that entered this country without certification thought they were being mistreated before, and in my opinion, they were, after these displays, further wrath would befall them, and it has.  Thus, we have the latest proposal.  English will be the official language in America.  The “melting pot” will no longer be fluid; the ingredients will congeal and separate.

    In decades past, signs were posted, “Whites Only.”  Assuming this measure becomes law, might we expect banners asserting “English Only.”  What this means legally is still in dispute.  What it signifies ethically is unquestionable.  Racism is rampant and we are a reactive society.

    In this nation of immigrants, we want none.  We want to remain pure, white, and bright.  Thus, we accept émigrés that will advance our brilliance.  We permit the highly educated to reside among us.  Whites are always welcome and if an individual can verify by our own subjective standards, they are not tainted, we might consider their entrance, temporarily.  They can work for us, be our guests.  These barely benign can clean our homes, hotels, and offices.  They can bend over in our fields; they can be our guests, for a time, as long as we are able to ensure that they never learn to speak English.

    We want the Mexican migrants here and we do not.  We want them to work and pay taxes; however, we do not wish to support their needs.  We want no evidence of their permanent presence in our neighborhoods.  We are willing to hire these immigrants for a day or an hour.  Then we put them out as refuse.  We have them in our homes; still, they are not in our hearts.  In a nation founded on freedom, there is little for those not native born.  Yet, less than a few centuries ago, few of us were.  How quickly we forget.

    “We’re [also] a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways.”

    George W. Bush, President Bush’s Address to Nation, The Washington Post.  Monday, May 15, 2006
    For your pleasure. Please peruse . . .
    Senate Votes to Set English as National Language, By Carl Hulse. New York Times. May 19, 2006
    Senate: Make English official, By Frank James. Chicago Tribune May 19, 2006
    U.S. Senate says English is national, unifying tongue, By Donna Smith. Reuters. News.scotsman.com. May 17, 2006.
    English? Si. Maybe. White House backs both sides, By Suzanne Gamboa. Chicago Sun Times. May 20, 2006
    On Immigration, Bush Seeks ‘Middle Ground By Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Weisman Washington Post. Tuesday, May 16, 2006
    Senators wrangle over English’s status in U.S., MSNBC. May 19, 2006
    Sessions: ‘The Senate should be ashamed of itself’ CNN News. Friday, May 19, 2006
    The Legendary English-Only Vote of 1795 By Dennis Baron, Excerpt “Do You Speak American?” MacNeil, Lehrer Productions. 2005
    Immigration Bill Shapes Up in the Senate By Nicole Gaouette, Los Angeles Times. May 20, 2006
    The Official English Question By James Crawford, Language Policy Web Site & Emporium
    S. J. R. 72, April 27, 1981
    Language Legislation in the U.S.A. By James Crawford, Language Policy Web Site & Emporium
    State Language Legislation ?” 2003 Language Policy Web Site & Emporium
    Congressman Toby Roth on English As The Official Language PBS Online Forum April 3, 1996
    Anatomy of the English-Only Movement, By James Crawford
    Arizona’s English-only law ruled unconstitutional CNN Interactive. April 29, 1998
    ACLU Briefing Paper Number 6 “English Only” American Civil Liberties Union
    Action Alerts National Association for Bilingual Education
    Bush: Sing ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ in English, CNN News. Friday, April 28, 2006
    In English Only? By Bob Schieffer, Host of CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation
    Meeting the Needs of Students With Limited English Proficiency Report to Congressional Requesters, United States General Accounting Office. February 2001
    ESL Programs for Immigrants and Refugees English as a Second Language Information Center
    Second language acquisition Wikipedia
    Bill on Illegal-Immigrant Aid Draws Fire, By Rachel L. Swarns. New York Times. December 30, 2005
    The Sensenbrenner-King Bill’s  “Greatest Misses” National Immigration Forum February 16, 2006
    NCLR Terms Sensenbrenner Bill “Appalling” National Council of The Raza. December 8, 2005
    Sensenbrenner Bill
    Illegal Immigration and the English Language, By Victor Davis Hanson. Tribune Media Services. April 17, 2006
    Language Immersion Education and Research
    • UPDATE: President’s Radio Address May 20, 2006
    Repealing Bilingual Ballots
    The English-Only Question. An Official Language for Americans?, By Dennis Baron. Yale University Press
    The Bill of Rights Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution
    U.S. Constitution FindLaw For Legal Professionals
    President Bush’s Address to Nation, CQ Transcriptions. Washington Post. Monday, May 15, 2006