Bunker Mulligan "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." ~Mark Twain

April 21, 2005

Federal Election Commission Rulemakings

Filed under: Government — Bunker @ 8:59 am

It has been more than two weeks, and my comments still don’t appear on the Federal Election Commission Rulemakings we site.

Perhaps they didn’t like what I had to say.

April 15, 2005

Bennington Banner – Editorials

Filed under: Government — Bunker @ 11:58 am

Plenty of politicians, some of whom slam Tom DeLay for doing so, pay family members to work on their campaigns. One in Vermont isn’t happy to find he has been identified as one of those. All information came from FEC data readily accessible to the public–those who are interested.

I like the last line of the article:

Not everyone has the time or resources to follow the government’s doings, but newspapers and other media do, and that’s the next best thing.

Certainly what blogs try to do.

Silence of the Blogs

Filed under: Government — Bunker @ 10:02 am

I really don’t think I’m making too much of this issue. How can I? It is about one of our fundamental rights, and one we have spent money and lives trying to bring to others in the world.

But greater minds than mine seem to believe we need to sit back and accept what is now being done in Congress as a solution.

It isn’t. I feel I must reiterate that this issue is older than our Constitution. And it gets to the heart of all those things conservatives and liberals alike claim to support. Our Federal Government–the politicians in particular–feel the need to regulate as much as they possibly can. I’m sure most don’t view it in those terms. And our Constitution was written to not give them authority to regulate anything except in several very specific cases.

Unfortunately, most Americans have something in mind they want to see regulated. We have a habit of insisting on some kind of regulation when it would be in our personal interest, yet decry regulation which affects us adversely. This one affects all of us adversely because of its core assumption. And people need to pay attention.

With the outcry regarding the FEC’s intent to answer the question of whether the internet should be regulated or not, several Congressmen have decided to propose legislation which exempts the internet from BCRA oversight. Folks, that is treating the symptom.

If Congress and the FEC feel like they have the authority to exempt, they believe they also have the authority to restrict!

That is the disease which must be cured.

Fortunately, as UML Guy pointed out, I’m not the only one in the blogosphere concerned with this approach.

Yes, we are a form of media. No, we do not need a media exemption. Neither do other media outlets. And that, my friends, is the real issue. How can Government determine whether or not the First Amendment is valid when the only authority they’ve been given is that which is contained in the Constitution? We have more than a little circular reasoning going on in DC. The Constitution does not give them authority to limit free speech. As emphasis, James Madison insisted on an Amendment which stated that in very clear terms.

I’m amazed at how quiet the blogosphere is on this issue.

April 11, 2005

Illegal Immigrant Return

Filed under: Government,International — Bunker @ 1:54 pm

According to this

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is thinking about resuming a program to transport illegal aliens back to their hometowns in Mexico, rather than the present practice of expelling them at the Arizona border.

Why not simply take them to Mexico City? Perhaps then Fox might not encourage them to try and enter the US illegally.

April 9, 2005

Freedom of Speech

Filed under: Government — Bunker @ 10:06 am

I finished reading the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and much of the text focuses on definitions. It is worth your while to read. Perhaps the comments I’ve sent to the FEC will give you some idea of where they are going with all this. Here is the text of my comments. I also sent copies to my Congressman, Senators, and the White House expressing my view that BCRA must be repealed.

Mr. Brad C. Deutsch
Assistant General Counsel

Mr. Deutsch,

I am deeply troubled by the apparent arrogance of unelected civil servants to propose rules regarding any individual’s right to purchase and use the means to exercise his God-given right to free speech, speech that is guaranteed by the First Amendment. If you have not read it in some time, let me provide it for you:

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.

When I use the word “arrogance”, I am addressing the Commission’s assumption that they can exempt certain entities from their rules. That assumption implies they also assume they have the power to restrict those same things if so desired. Alexander Hamilton, writing in the 84th Federalist Paper, warned of this attitude when debating the need for a Bill of Rights:

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.

In case you don’t understand the lexicon of 18th century America, he said that there was no need for an Amendment to guarantee freedom of speech because the Constitution did not cede power to the Government to restrict free speech.

Regardless, James Madison and others felt that any government would eventually try to usurp the Constitution, and he insisted on the following as his proposal for an Amendment:

The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.

Inviolable. I’d say our Founders’ intent was pretty clear.

With all that as prelude, anything I might add seems fairly mundane. But I will add it regardless.

The Commission also seeks comment on whether bloggers, whether acting as individuals or through incorporated or unincorporated entities, are entitled to the statutory exemption.

No. Bloggers need no exemption. Nor does The New York Times. Nor does CBS news. If you doubt this, read again from the beginning. You, and anyone else in the Federal Government, have no authority to restrict speech or press; therefore you have no authority to exempt.

I will also add that you have the power within bounds of the law to restrict or exempt organizations, as they do not share the rights of individuals. And within the bounds of BCRA, you have the authority to restrict how a candidate’s campaign collects and distributes money. You do not have the authority to restrict the individuals who receive that money. Consider a campaign manager and his salary. That income is taxable, and subject to monitoring by the IRS. The same could be said for any internet site receiving money from a campaign. Once the funds leave the candidate’s hands (figuratively), your authority is ended.

Should bloggers’ activity be considered commentary or editorializing, or news story activity?

It is all of the above, and none of the above. It is that individual’s exercising of his rights. Period.

The Commission further seeks comment on whether it makes any difference under the Act if a blogger receives compensation or any other form of payment from any candidate, political party, or political committee for his or her editorial content. Would any such payments mean that the blogger is “controlled” by a candidate or political party within the meaning of 2 U.S.C. 431(9)(B)(i), and therefore is not entitled to the exemption?

If a blogger receives compensation, that is between him and the IRS, not the FEC. The FEC may be authorized to audit a campaign’s expenditures, but the campaign is responsible for such expenditures, not someone receiving that money. As to being controlled, I can tell you from personal experience that trying to control bloggers is like herding worms. We are all pretty independent-minded. If a blog is run by a campaign, deal with the campaign.

The news reports further indicate that not all of the bloggers disclosed the payments to the blogs’ readers.

People who read blogs are generally unconcerned about such issues. We find blogs which offer good information, and those who are “party hacks” tend to get identified quickly. So it is also with major media outlets. That is irrelevant. Bias exists. We all know that. William Randolph Hearst built his castle on bias. The internet is a source for all views and opinions. Those of you living insular lives in Washington are the last to understand this. I suggest you read Hugh Hewitt’s excellent book. It might help you in your deliberations.

To sum up my comments, the Federal Election Commission has no authority to restrict nor exempt individuals in their support or opposition to a candidate or political party. If the Commission insists on controlling moneys expended in a campaign for public office, the Commissioners would do well to look at restricting a candidate’s or party’s spending activities rather than where that money is spent.

You also have no authority to restrict my freedom to spend my own money in operating a television station, newspaper, or internet weblog.

Here is the Commission’s opportunity to stand up for individual freedoms.

April 8, 2005


Filed under: Government — Bunker @ 4:44 am

By the end of the day I hope to have my comments ready to send to the FEC and my representatives regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published on their site this week.

The more I read the proposal, the more I am amazed at the arrogance of our lawmakers and the bureaucrats in DC. I was thinking about the whole issue in the larger picture this morning, and tried to remember what information was available to us in the ’70s when the rules were modified once before. All of this is made public through the Federal Register, but the average citizen really didn’t have timely access to be able to contact anyone. Those who lived and worked in Washington at the time could make do, which means legislators, lobbyists, and the media. We’ve seen how well MSM covers this issue now (have they?), so what did they do then?

I am convinced the internet is villified daily by our folks in the Capitol. And at rulemaking offices throughout Washington. Blogs in particular. The ability to access the Federal Register, the Library of Congress, fundraising records, and Thomas (legislative information) gives us the ability to learn things these people may not want us to know. Blogs spread that information (I’m doing it right now), and we aren’t dependent upon the talking heads and New York Times.

For the first time in our history, all this data can be viewed by anyone with internet access. And we can discuss it and argue about it, and let our representatives know what we think about it.

Wow. Why isn’t everyone doing it?

April 6, 2005

Regulating cornrows

Filed under: Government — Bunker @ 6:51 am

Government regulation excludes many people who would really be good at something by limiting, artificially, those who can enter some particular professions. John Stossel has an interesting piece on typical government involvement.

Some years ago, a married couple, Taalib-Din Uqdah and Pamela Farrell, went into business braiding hair, African-style. They called their shop Cornrows & Co. If politicians’ speeches are right, Uqdah and Farrell were heroes: Inner cities need businesses, and the couple had built a booming business in Washington, D.C. They had 20,000 customers, employed 10 people and took in half a million dollars a year. Some women came from as far away as Connecticut, six hours away, to have their hair braided by Cornrows & Co.

The local cosmetology board got involved, and the Uqdahs spent ten years fighting them in court. The board insisted they needed a cosmetology license to braid hair.

In order to get one, Uqdah would have to pay about $5,000 to take more than 1,000 hours of courses at a beauty school….

Uqdah says the braiding he provides can’t be taught in schools and shouldn’t be licensed. “I’ve watched little second-grade girls sit down and braid each other’s hair.” …When he argues that different hair requires different skills, he says, licensed cosmetologists “go into denial. They like to think that they know how to do it all. And they don’t.”

I’ve run into the same mentality in the public education world. Denial is powerful. Very powerful. Nobody can teach in our public schools unless they get a “license” from the education department of a state university. It doesn’t matter if they are capable or not, only that they complete the program with at least a 2.0 GPA. A “C” average. In other words, get through the indoctrination and regurgitate the precise information fed to you by the education establishment. If you decide to argue the logic, educators go into denial.

Ain’t gubmint good?

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