I’m in the middle of some rather long-range travel at the moment, blogging this morning from a hotel. We’re visiting some family this week so I might be a little lighter in the blogging department. There are some interesting goings-on lately, however, so I won’t be completely silent. Hope all of you had a Happy Easter!
A very Happy Easter to you all! By the time this fires, I’ll be at Mass celebrating the Risen Lord. Here’s hoping your celebrations are happy, too.
The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
In this week’s Second Amendment podcast on iVoices.org, Jon Caldara and I discuss three different cases which could give the Supreme Court an opportunity to decide whether the Second Amendment is incorporated in the Fourteenth: the Chicago handgun ban; the Alameda County, California, gun show ban on county property; and the New York nunchaku ban. The MP3 is ll minutes.
Interesting. Especially the “New York nunchaku ban.” I’ll see what I can find about that.
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.
Would a bill introduced to Congress put it within the President’s power to completely shut down your access to the Internet in a “national security emergency” as defined by the President and his assigns? Excellent question. The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773) is being discussed in many quarters as enabling the President to do just that, a grant of power to the Executive that many – if not all – of my colleagues on the left would have been howling in anger over had it been introduced last year at this time. They would have screamed that Bush was showing his jack-booted colors. Now? Not so much angst over there.
Ah, but are we putting the cart before the horse? The Cybersecurity Act is a pretty standard-length bill, which means it’s huge and unwieldy to read. But, in keeping with my profession and within the auspices of 2 of the professional organizations of which I’m a member I’m going to delve into this bill and see what’s really there. This will not be a quick post nor will it be fast research but I think it’s important. I’m putting this into a category of its own so it can be retrieved quickly.
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.