The federal government is enjoined from abridging the freedom of speech or of the press by virtue of the explicit restriction against Congress making any law granting any part of the federal government the power to do so. That restriction is housed in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the highest law of our land. What that means, essentially, is that the government has no authority to halt the reporting of a public event (unless they’re somehow asserting a national security issue and, therefore, are classifying the event) nor can they confiscate a reporter’s materials used to record that event. And yet, according to Mark Segraves at WTOP News in DC, that’s exactly what happened a few nights ago:
What makes this story truly unbelievable – and very scary – is the fact that the mastermind of this attack is a federal employee, Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was aided by at least two other employees of the V.A. and four armed security guards.
I call the incident an “attack” because it was just that. An attack on the First Amendment, an attack on veterans and an attack on the public’s right to know how their government is treating wounded vets.
Schultz is a reporter with Public Radio station WAMU. Last Tuesday night, he was covering a public event at the V.A. Hospital in Washington, D.C. While interviewing one of the veterans about the poor treatment he was receiving at the hands of the V.A., Ms. Hairston demanded that Schultz stop recording the interview and hand over his recording equipment.
“She said I wouldn’t be allowed to leave,” Schultz tells WTOP.
At first he refused. But after being surrounded by armed police officers who stood between him and the exit, he looked for a compromise.
“I became worried that I was going to get arrested,” Schultz says.
I am amazed that Schultz’s editor advised him to hand over the recorder’s flash memory card. The VA has refused to answer questions about this situation nor have they returned the memory card. (And even if they did, who would believe they had not tampered with it?)
Even more astounding was what happened when one of the many vets who overheard what was going on came out into the hall to try to give Schultz their phone number. The VA official apparently claimed he wasn’t allowed to do that and promised to “get ugly” if they didn’t do as she ordered.
Read Segraves’ whole article for the details. This is one that deserves a full and public investigation to say nothing of an indictment against Hairston if this situation turns out to be even remotely as reported. Schultz’s comment at the end is spot on: With actions like these, what is the VA trying to hide? Why do they fear what interview was going to reveal?
Update: Well, apparently the glare of the spotlights the VA’s actions attracted have managed to clear whatever haze was keeping the VA from thinking clearly. In a letter from the VA, spokeswoman Katie Roberts has said they will return the gear:
In a written statement to The Associated Press, VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the department “regrets this incident occurred” and as a result would hand back the flash drive that it took from WAMU reporter David Schultz at the VA Medical Center in Washington. WAMU is a National Public Radio affiliate in the capital.
“After reviewing all the facts surrounding the incident of April 7th and actions since, VA has arranged the return of the flash drive to WAMU,” Roberts said. “We make every effort to protect the privacy of our patients and to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions about what information they release or discuss with the public while in a VA facility.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs regrets this incident occurred as we appreciate the interest of the press in covering veterans’ issues,” she added.
I would certainly hope that someone has explained all of that to Ms. Hairston, the woman who clearly didn’t think the VA appreciated the interest of the press at all.
Thanks to a post by Warner Todd Huston over at RedState I was alerted to a fascinating tale of – at the very least – horribly unethical tactics undertaken by a Democrat-aligned lobbying firm in Boston. Matthew Nadler works for the Halifax-Plympton Reporter and Enterprise out of Halifax, MA. He takes his paper’s position in the market as a small-community newspaper seriously and tries to make sure the local residents have a paper that deals with their local issues. Which is why what happened a few weeks ago has obviously rankled him. Having received a letter in the mail from a local resident who was writing to advocate on a national issue dealing with Medicare, Mr. Nadler sensed something amiss:
I have to tell you, there was something fishy about the letter to begin with. For starters, the letter didn’t ask people to contact Senators Kennedy or Kerry, or Congressmen Frank or Delahunt. I’m pretty sure that a local person would have included that. When you’ve been in this business long enough, you sort of get a sense of when a letter isn’t quite what it appears.
But, it was attributed to a local resident. It had his name and phone number. So I called. I spoke with him. The gentlemen informed me that he had no idea what I was talking about. I apologized for wasting his time and was happy for the lesson in why we always verify a letter, no matter how innocuous the subject matter.
That apparently wasn’t the end of it, however. Last week he got a phone call from a guy claiming to be calling on behalf of the man who, it turned out, hadn’t written the letter. When Mr. Nadler expounded a bit to the unknown caller on what had happened and what he generally thought about people who would impersonate a local resident to get their politics advanced, the caller became less than willing to identify himself. Mr. Nadler was just getting started:
Little did he know that, using modern communications technology available in most homes, I had his phone number, and using the magic of the Internet, I found out where he was calling from.
The number belonged to a company called the Dewey Square Group, which turns out to be a lobbying firm based in Boston. The staff list is full of some of the heavy hitters of Democratic politics in Massachusetts, people like Michael Whouley, who’s so important that Dennis Leary played him in a TV movie.
Now, their Web site doesn’t list their clients, but it doesn’t take a genius, or a newspaper editor, to figure out they’ve been hired by someone with an interest in keeping Medicare Advantage in business. That’s fine. A lobbying firm needs clients. Maybe Medicare Advantage is worth keeping. I really don’t know.
What bugs me is that they seem to think I’m stupid. Or maybe lazy. Or both. And they think there’s at least one senior citizen in town that meets those criteria as well.
One has to wonder how many times Dewey Square Group has done this. I mean if they were caught out this time, how many times did letters they wrote under the cover of some unsuspecting resident actually get in print because some other opinion section editor wasn’t as disciplined as Mr. Nadler obviously is?
One also has to wonder whether this kind of activity is actually illegal. When I read the story I was reminded of the episodes of “sock-puppetry” that ran around the blogosphere during the last election cycle. The difference here is that when some idiot blogger decides to create alternate personas to jack up his comment count and misrepresent how many people are agreeing with him he’s actually creating that persona, he’s not stealing someone’s name to do it. When I read this story to my wife, her response was that she thought this represented identity theft. It’s clearly impersonation. So, is it illegal? I think it certainly should be.
In any case, I think anyone looking to contract with a lobbying firm should be very careful about doing so with Dewey Square Group. If they’re using letters written by common joes on a subject as a metric of their effectiveness in bringing the issue to the public eye, then they’re putting their fingers on the scale to skew the reading. You might not be getting your money’s worth, here.
Watching the General Assembly today was certainly instructive. The phrase has been attributed to a number of people but whoever said it was right: Laws, as with sausage, should not be watched in the making.
In my previous post I did a sort-of live blogging of event up to around 6:15 PM or so. Feel free to read that post but I’m going to recap the pertinent stuff here. As you know if you’ve read this blog I was an advocate for several bills passing through the Assembly and, when Governor Kaine vetoed them, I was also an advocate for the override of those vetoes. Well, here’s how it shook out today:
|House (Y/N)||Senate (Y/N)||House (Y/N)||Senate (Y/N)|
|HB1851||Military > 1 gun/mo.||73/26||26/14||Yes||No|
|SB877||Retired LEO CCW in restaurant||76/22||30/10||Yes||Yes|
|SB1035||CCW in restaurant||n/a||24/16||n/a||No|
|SB1528||CCW safety course online||73/23||28/12||Yes||Yes|
You’ll note that the Senate actually had a majority vote to override the veto in each case. The ones that failed did so because they needed 2/3rds of the Senate to vote for the override, which means they needed 27 Yes votes to get the job done. Cynic that I am, I am convinced the Democratic majority in the Senate contrived to allow a number of their own to vote yes to the override so they could go home and say they voted “yes” but there just wasn’t enough votes to complete the override. Be as that may, this is what it is. Of the 5 bills I was hoping to see an override on, 2 of them managed to get through. Of the others, the House voted to override but the Senate did not.
The big bill, so far as I was concerned, was SB1035 which sought to remove the inconsistency of being a trustworthy enough citizen to carry a concealed weapon in the street and the sidewalk outside a restaurant but not enough so as to carry it past the threshold of that restaurant. Irrational fears and hyped-up hypotheticals is all that the opponents of this bill have had for over 2 years, now. This law has been passed twice by the Commonwealth’s elected representatives by quite large margins only to be dismissed by a handful of people. Truly incredible.
The good news is that this will be the last time Kaine gets to use Virginia’s legislative process to pad his national resume. He’s out in November, period. Those of us who have tried to work with him and his party must now put our efforts into electing Bob McDonnell to the governorship and as many Delegates and Senators as we can who offer the trust and respect to Virginia’s citizens that we’ve clearly been asking for.
In case any of my nearby neighbors were wondering, Delegate Dave Poisson (House 32nd District) and Senator Mark Herring (Senate 33rd District) voted like this:
Note that Poisson didn’t vote on SB1035 because the Senate failed to override making the House vote moot. I would like to point out to my fellow Loudouners that the votes of these 2 gentlemen make it clear they trust a retired cop slamming down brews at the local pub with a concealed weapon far more than they trust you stone-cold sober. Keep that in mind.
I’d also like to hear them explain themselves regarding HB1851 where they think our military personnel and Guardsmen aren’t worth the consideration of being able to buy more than 1 handgun a month. With the deployments going on a soldier with orders to ship out might very well get caught having to decide between buying a sidearm for his own use overseas or getting one for his wife to keep at home to defend themselves here. I don’t understand how they can claim to trust and honor our military personnel – and depend on them to fulfill their missions, I might add – and not allow them this latitude. I hope members of our military and Guard will keep that in mind, as well.
Time to turn our eyes toward the future, my friends, and work to show Virginians everywhere that we’ve got the ideas and solutions to a better way and the people who know how to get them implemented.
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, spent some time this past weekend meeting with illegal immigrants and telling them that enforcement of the existing US immigration laws is un-American.
Oh, yes she did:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently told a group of both legal and illegal immigrants and their families that enforcement of existing immigration laws, as currently practiced, is “un-American.”
The speaker, condemning raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, referred to the immigrants she was addressing as “very, very patriotic.”
“Who in this country would not want to change a policy of kicking in doors in the middle of the night and sending a parent away from their families?” Pelosi told a mostly Hispanic gathering at St. Anthony’s Church in San Francisco.
“It must be stopped….What value system is that? I think it’s un-American. I think it’s un-American.”
No, it’s the illegals coming here in full knowledge that they’re breaking our laws that are un-American. It’s the Speaker of the House publicly slandering an entire agency’s worth of law enforcement professionals by calling them un-American for doing the job specified by Congress that’s un-American.
Pelosi’s actions are indefensible. Her oath – her oath – to uphold and defend the Constitution demands that she support the professionals hired by the government to enforce the laws she and her fellow representatives have passed. If Pelosi is so outraged by the laws passed by Congress then she should submit a bill to change them, not cut the legs out from under ICE and join in slamming them. She owes ICE and the American people an apology for talking like that to people who are, by definition, not American citizens.
Elections have consequences, folks. Pelosi is happy to advocate not obeying the law in public to people who are not owed a damned thing in this country. What other laws is she willing to just dismiss and diss? Her word, her oaths, are clearly meaningless. She should be cut loose and someone who actually has the best interested of this country at heart put in her place.
Yeah, and you just know that if I were talking about the woman’s color there’d be riots in the streets by now. No, this woman has been forced to sue the DC government because she has jumped through all of the silly hoops this city has set up that its citizens must negotiate in order to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights and been turned down because her gun is the wrong color. I kid you not:
A D.C. woman has sued the city, claiming officials would not let her register a handgun because of its color.
According to the suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, Tracey Hanson tried to register a two-tone, stainless steel and black pistol. But the .45-caliber semiautomatic was denied because it doesn’t appear on the California Safe Handgun Roster. The roster only lists that model in olive drab green, dark earth or black.
And if you need any further proof that the DC government is not operating in good faith compliance with the Supreme Court decision in Heller v. DC, you’re just not willing to be convinced.
They denied her application to register a gun that would have passed without further comment had it been olive drab because the color isn’t on the California list. A list, I might add, that DC residents have positively no control over. Absolutely unbelievable. News flash to the alleged professionals in DC: the color of the damn gun doesn’t do a thing to make the gun more or less safe, more or less lethal, and – in a rational world – more or less qualified to be registered. If the members of DC’s council wanted to look any more like the elitist snobs we contend they are, I’m unsure how they’d accomplish it.
This is why Congress should pass legislation taking the decisions over fellow Americans’ exercise of Constitutionally-protected rights out of the hands of the DC Council. They clearly lack the ability to govern in these matters in a coherent, rational manner. The Council should have every responsibility except for managing the city’s snow plows, trash removal, and utilities delivery removed. It’s ludicrous that it comes to this over the color of an item when the color is immaterial to the operation of said item. If they can’t see their way around that, then they don’t need to be in the driver’s seat.
With the subject coming up about taxing people based on the mileage they drive as opposed to the gas they buy and the casual dismissal of the privacy concerns with the suggestion the government track us all via GPS, I thought it prudent to point out this story, titled, “Police use of warrantless GPS tracking challenged.”
Dan Prywes, the lawyer who filed the brief on behalf of the ACLU, said such satellite technology makes it all too easy for police to engage in Big Brother-type surveillance unless the courts rein them in.
“Most people are aghast at the notion that police – without any showing of probable cause – could track them wherever they go by using an electronic eye in the sky,” said Prywes, an attorney with the Bryan Cave law firm, which worked on the case on a pro bono basis.
Jones’ trial lawyers also tried to have the tracking evidence tossed out of court, but U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle allowed the jury to hear it.
Prosecutors argue that GPS tracking is no different than physical surveillance conducted by police.
“Because Jones lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the whereabouts of his vehicle, the placement of the GPS device was proper, even in the complete absence of a court order,” prosecutors wrote in their legal briefs dating to 2006.
So, the gist of this is that the police suspected someone of doing something illegal and, without court authorization of any kind, attached a GPS transponder to their vehicle so they could track their every move. Based upon this revelation, you might have one of these on your car right this second.
I realize the case in question regards a cocaine dealer caught in his crimes in part by the information obtained from the GPS track. I have no problem with this guy getting the entire set of books thrown at him. The problem I have is a simple one: you can’t go around searching this guy’s car, searching his house, or tapping his phone without a warrant. They attached a device to his private property without his consent and without a judge signing off on it. (I strongly suspect they did so because they knew they didn’t have enough to go to a judge to get one.)
They’re arguing that this is no different than physical surveillance but I don’t think it’s the same at all. First, would they have been able to walk up to his house and bolt on a device that registers whenever someone enters or leaves the premises? That’s just like physical surveillance, too, but I can’t see them getting away with that. Just because this particular piece of private property happens to be mobile isn’t a reason to dispense with due process.
Second, the GPS transponder allows them to track his car regardless of whether it’s on public property and in full view or on private property and completely hidden from normal observation. Even if I were to grant that they have the right to track his car in this fashion on public roads – and I don’t concede that, by the way – they certainly cannot make the “it’s just like physical surveillance” argument when the car drives onto private property and disappears around the corner of a building. The police are continuing to track the vehicle’s movements even then and this argument holds no water in such a situation.
No, if they want to track a person’s car from orbit they’ve got to have probable cause. The judge of whether they do or not is, well… a judge. They should have to have a warrant to do this.
Here’s an interesting question for any of you lawyers or law students. If Congress were to pass a law that had, say, 5 parts or legal effects contained within it and the law was challenged as unconstitutional because 1 of those parts was alleged to be a violation of the 4th Amendment would the Supreme Court be forced to invalidate the entire law to find the 1 part unconstitutional? By that I mean could they possibly find that 1 part unconstitutional and overrule it yet leave the remaining 4 other parts or effects standing?
At first blush it would appear to be a simple matter of fairness and equal rights for all citizens: residents of the District of Columbia should have the same representation in Congress as do residents of Virginia, Ohio, Wyoming and Idaho. That they don’t has given rise to license plates echoing the “Taxation without Representation” battle cry of our Founding Fathers as well as a myriad of calls for Congress to pass laws changing that status quo. There’s a problem, however: such an action would be unconstitutional and a violation of the oaths taken by every member of Congress.
The Foundry over at The Heritage Foundation sums the various points up very neatly in this post, “The Constitution is Clear: DC is a Federal City.”
The Constitution of the United States of America
- Congress Doesn’t Have the Authority: Congress lacks the constitutional authority to simply grant the District a voting representative, as the Constitution explicitly limits such representation to states alone. Members of Congress are bound by their oath to reject proposals that violate the Constitution.
- Article I, Section 2: “Representatives…shall be apportioned among the several States.” The District, as courts and Congress have long agreed, is not a state.
- Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have power … To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.” Congress has the same power over “forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings”—and it’s obvious that Congress can’t give a Navy pier or a federal building a seat in the House.
- The Framers Had a Plan: The Framers’ plan created a “federal town” designed to serve the needs of the federal government, as all Members of Congress would share the responsibility of protecting a city they live and work in.
There’s lots more in the article but 1 thing is quite plain. There’s a method to do this that’s explicitly stated in the Constitution – make a amendment. The fact that this path is difficult and takes time is a feature, not a bug, and it’s no excuse to simply ignore the rules and do what pleases a few out of our body politic. The amendment process was undertaken once with Congress passing the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment in 1978. With its passage by both the House and the Senate the measure was sent to the states for ratification. The Constitution requires three-fourths of the states to ratify the amendment for it to be considered adopted. This required 38 states to ratify it and that must be done within 7 years. When that time elapsed on 22 August, 1985 the amendment failed and the measure was not implemented.
All of the talk and all of the news coverage in the world do not change the facts about what is necessary to provide DC with representatives in the chambers of Congress. Be you for or against it, a Constitutional amendment must pass and be adopted. Everything else is just political theater. I would suggest to those advocating for such a change that their efforts would be better spent trying to get an amendment passed than in seeking useless resolutions.