The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: June 2010

Who Are You, Bob Etheridge?

Watching the video, it was hard to determine if North Carolina Representative and Democrat Bob Etheridge was drunk or sober. There was a nasty, tell-tale slur in his words that suggested alcoholic inebriation. But, on the other hand, that might have been the influence of another notorious intoxicant: political power and its constant companion, arrogance. Or, it might have just been his naturally abrupt and abrasive Southern speaking style, coupled with a not-too wholesome character.

Did the students detect in him an odor of alcohol, or an odor of sanctimony? Or a combination of the aromas? He was leaving a Nancy Pelosi fundraiser. Only the college students whom he attacked would know for sure.

Etheridge issued an “apology” when news of the incident spread like wildfire. His public statement was not specifically addressed to the students, but to the “public.” So, it was less an apology, and more an expression of panic. Etheridge regrets, but does not apologize.

“I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.”

Not exactly a tear-jerker. He has “always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect.” Except when he thinks they are questioning his character and political leanings. His manhandling of the student did not “justify a poor response.” If anyone else had tried such a “poor response” on the student, he could have been arrested for and charged with assault. He will “always work to promote a civil public discourse,” except when he’s in a nasty mood and feeling touchy about his reelection prospects and doesn’t feel like having discourse with the public.

Etheridge was addressed — not accosted — on a public street by the students. They didn’t approach or stalk him. He approached them, and was “ambushed” by an inconvenient question. He wasn’t the first. Other Democrats have been “ambushed” and ignored or told the questioners to get themselves to a nunnery.

He was elected to represent his district, but, like many of his Democratic and Republican brethren, behaves like he owns the seat and needn’t answer to well-dressed and well-mannered strangers who ask him a simple question. “Do you fully support the Obama agenda?” The students continued to call him “Sir” even when the representative got violent.

Granted, it was a loaded question. The students were angling for a hypothetical “Yes, I fully support the Obama agenda,” which would have been an admission of guilt for endorsing an agenda that is playing havoc with the economy and whittling down our liberties to zero.

Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary, and once on Etheridge’s staff, had this to say about the North Carolinian‘s statement:

“I’ve known Bob Etheridge for more than a thirteen years and I am proud to have worked for him. He is one of the most honorable people I know. Everyone makes mistakes, and I’m proud of Bob for taking responsibility and apologizing for his.”

But, it wasn’t an apology. It was false humility tailored for voter consumption. Democrats “don’t need no stinking badges.” They’re the majority, and they’ll do as they like.

The “Obama agenda” has been so excoriated by the blogosphere that Democrats have become super-sensitive to any questions about it. Was he really “ambushed” by the college students, as some MSM commentators charge? The students apparently were working for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government news outlet. Etheridge couldn’t have known that at the time, otherwise he wouldn’t have kept repeating “Who are you? I want to know who you are,.” all the while manhandling the student.

Breitbart’s troops are famous — some say notorious — for entrapping on video politicians, government employees, and professional parasites with a line into government money, or anyone who deserves to be snared in behavior, attitude and speech, and all of whom are complicit in the growth of the federal government and the ongoing diminution of freedom.

Etheridge’s voting record is spectacularly undistinguished. That is, it is nearly the straight Obama agenda party platform. The college students couldn’t be blamed for loading their question. Of all his nearly one hundred and ninety “yes” and “no” votes, only one stood out. In April 2001 he voted “yes” on eliminating the estate or “death” tax. But his voting record puts him solidly in the Obama camp. And as a Southern Christian “new” Democrat, his stances on abortion, free trade, TARP, and other issues are as fuzzy and bollixed as any other “moderate” Democrat’s.

Every member of Congress should be similarly “ambushed.” President Obama should be “ambushed.” It is practically the only means left of drawing out the true character and attitude of those who would be kings, queens, and Congressional courtiers.

We, the people, have a right to know who they are.

The Censors’ Cabal

It is a whispering campaign to counter the harmful — shall we say “hateful”? — effects of freedom of speech and the liberty of inquiry. To whom are they harmful and hateful? To President Barack Obama. To his administration. To Congress. To tribal “communities” of every stripe. They know that the truth is out there, about them, about their actions, about their motives, and it must be suppressed. — albeit without saying that it is being censored.

The first evidence of Obama’s true intentions was the overt but clumsy invitation to Americans last summer to report via email to the White House any “fishy” anti-administration talk by other Americans. Obama received a stinging, well-deserved rebuke, one delivered chiefly in the Internet’s blogosphere and which spread like slow molasses to the mainstream media, which did not welcome a rebuke of their copacetic favorite and sometime messiah. The White House’s “rat-on-your-neighbor” site was taken down, but not before first crashing under the weight of countless thousands of retorts from Americans to Obama to mind his own business.

But Obama and Company haven’t given up. They and Congress believe their “business” is to “run” the country, and that includes filtering and censoring what Americans read, think, and say. Like Muslims who object to images of Mohammed, their feelings are hurt and their sensibilities offended by criticism and caricature. Negative portrayals of Obama and his administration and his ilk in Congress are considered to be abrasive and secularly “blasphemous.“ Obama’s “approval ratings” are plummeting and Congress’s promise to shatter the floor. It’s all the fault of the First Amendment. It must be emasculated, qualified, and delegitimitized.

Their ideological clones in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are assiduously searching for a means to impose censorship without calling it censorship. They are moved by a fear that the Tea Parties and an indiscriminate and unobstructed access to news other than what is reported by the MSM have demonstrated a power that threatens the hegemony of collectivism. They wish to silence anyone and everyone who pursues and exposes the truth.

The FTC is casting about for the means to “save” journalism, that is, the journalism it approves of. That is, the Commission is searching for a justification for meddling. It concedes that Internet journalism exists, but by implication discounts it as “true” journalism. After all, it isn’t regulated or subsidized by the government; ergo, its news is highly suspect. What it wishes to do is find a way to bolster “traditional” news coverage and reportage, whatever that may be, for the concept is nowhere defined in its Draft report.

They want a captive, obedient electorate as dumbed down and indoctrinated exclusively by government-approved news and government-vetted “journalists,” as hapless and helpless as school children instructed in the ways of Islam and the environment and “Native American” culture, while fed miniscule portions of Howard Zinn-style American history that guarantee children will grow up to be subservient tax-cows and “good,” selfless citizens.

One of those means is to tax the blogosphere and force it to subsidize its competitors. Another is to establish a “public fund” to subsidize newspapers, other approved media, and journalists by taxing the broadcast spectrum, consumer electronics, commercial advertising, and cell phone ISPs. Still another is to rewrite IRS rules to better protect newspapers and broadcast stations from the Internet. Nine pages of The Federal Trade Commission Staff Discussion Draft of Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism (the Draft) are devoted to how the IRS can further perpetuate “traditional” journalism (pp. 21-29).

Indeed, the IRS plays a heavy-handed role in what may be defined as public interest-oriented news and mere “commercial” news. If The New York Times, for example, claims that it is chiefly a “public service” and can prove it caters to the “public interest,“ while its editorializing is just a sideline, then it qualifies for tax exemptions or credits (in other words, a subsidy or tax break enjoyed by few other papers). If a newspaper’s chief purpose is to promulgate an ideology and is not published by a certified non-profit organization (and it‘s the IRS that decides what is a “non-profit“ organization), then it gets no exemptions or credits.

The FTC Draft is essentially a 47-page excursion into fantasy land. Journalism has already “reinvented” itself without any government support. How many newspapers, for example, do not now have free or advertiser-paid or subscriber-paid online daily editions? The only “support” the government can legitimately provide is to stay out of it.

The FTC staff discussions, however, created a smorgasbord of policy options to recommend (to whom? Congress? The White House? Cass Sunstein? Henry Waxman?). All of them require government action. Defenders of government action make the specious claim that the government has always been involved in promoting journalism and newspapers.

Besides, the Draft assures the public, the report only seeks

to prompt discussion of whether to recommend policy changes to support the ongoing “reinvention” of journalism, and, if so, which specific proposals appear most useful, feasible, platform-neutral, resistant to bias, and unlikely to cause unintended consequences in addressing emerging gaps in news coverage.

The FTC has only discussed “suggestions,” not concrete plans of action.

“These are nothing more or less than information gathering meetings,” says FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan, who adds that the agency has no current plans other than to publish the hearing results this fall. Beyond that, points out Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, protestations aside, government has played a role in encouraging a healthy press from the dawn of the republic.

“First, we had an ink subsidy and then we had a postal subsidy both of which helped a free press to flourish,” she says.

Yes, Miss Graves, the government played a role in encouraging the press — by largely not meddling in it except for the “ink subsidy” and the postal subsidy. (I could find no reference anywhere about an “ink subsidy,” unless Graves was referring to a tax break on printer’s ink purchases or to a tariff or excise tax break on its importation.)

Much of the Draft seems heavily influenced by the findings and recommendations of a USC/Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism study, “Public Policy and Funding the News.” It claims that the Internet and its blogging news reporters have benefited from government investment in development of the Internet, and will benefit again from TARPs I and II.

Long before the United States was founded, the Postal Service was subsidizing the news business. It was in good measure the free-mailing privileges conferred by many postmasters that allowed a robust network of colonial newspapers to emerge. George Washington wanted all newspapers, in fact, to have 100 percent subsidized mailing costs. The Postal Act of 1792 rejected the idea of a total subsidy, but it codified highly subsidized and extremely low rates. What brought a halt to publishers’ receiving 75 percent discounts on their mailed news products was the financial crisis that engulfed the Postal Service in the late 1960s.(p. 11) (Italics mine.)

These are some of the transparent rationalizations that seek to sanction “public funding” of newspapers, the broadcast spectrum, and the Internet. I italicized the first sentence of this vacuous rationalization because the “Postal Service” could not have predated the country’s founding. There was indeed a British Crown-controlled postal “service” but its purpose was not to foster the growth of colonial newspapers. See the USPS site for clarification of the purpose of the Crown and post-Revolutionary postal services, and Benjamin Franklin’s role in them. And for a history of the development of the Internet and the government’s role in its initial role as a tool of national defense (it did little to develop the commercial potential), go here.

It does not follow that if, historically, government had some role in the growth of news communications, it should “monitor” the “reinvention” of it by taking control of it.

The Annenberg study offers recommendations as woozy and ill-defined as those in the Draft.

As policymakers debate how to respond to the fast decline of the news business, we offer the following principles as guidance:

• First and foremost, do no harm. A cycle of powerful innovation is under way. To
the extent possible, government should avoid retarding the emergence of new models of news-gathering.

• Second, the government should help promote innovation, as it did when the
Department of Defense funded the research that created the Internet or when NASA funded the creation of satellites that made cable TV and direct radio and TV possible.

• Third, for commercial media, government-supported mechanisms that are content neutral – such as copyright protections, postal subsidies and taxes – are preferable to those that call upon the government to fund specific news outlets, publications or programs. However policymakers proceed, they should do so based on facts rather than myths. The government has always supported the commercial news business. It does so today. Unless the government takes affirmative action, though, the level of support is almost certain to decline at this important time in the history of journalism. (p. 16


In short, the study does not question a government role in journalism. It does not specifically oppose regulation of any media. It makes ambiguous suggestions that government “do no harm.” It seems to say: Wait until someone has a brilliant idea and a developed innovation; then you can jump in and control it for the “public good.” Whether or not that would be “doing harm” will be just someone’s subjective opinion. The “public interest” comes first.

The FCC is more obviously out to control speech, that is, to prohibit speech it deems offensive, specifically “hate speech.” But, as one blogger pointed out, the protection of “hate speech” is what the First Amendment is all about. No one has ever taken exception to “love speech” or demanded that it be censored.

The FCC is mulling over the petition of a collection of various collectivist groups, the “National Hispanic Media Coalition” (NHMC), to “monitor” speech on the radio and on the Internet, with a “view” to regulating its content and intent. But, to regulate or banish “hate speech” — whose ever definition of the term it may be — is to regulate or banish all speech.

NMHC’s Petition urges the Commission to examine the extent and effects of hate speech in media, including the likely link between hate speech and hate crimes, and to explore non-regulatory ways to counteract its negative impacts. As NHMC has awaited Commission action, hate, extremism and misinformation have been on the rise, and even more so in the past week as the media has focused on Arizona’s passage of one of the one of the harshest pieces of anti-Latino in this country’s history, SB1070.

There are forty-one more references to “hate speech” in the petition, the Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities in a Digital Age, while the phrase “hate, extremism and misinformation” appears four times. SB1070, however, is merely a replicant of the U.S. law, which remains haphazardly enforced. Again, nowhere in the petition are hate speech and misinformation defined. Their meanings are up for grabs by the most vocal and “victimized” communities (read tribes, groups, gangs).

And, there is no “non-regulatory way” to “counteract” any speech, hateful or not, not without the use of government force. “Counteraction” means action, which means force, which can be either withholding a radio station’s license, or pressure put on a station’s sponsors, or just Hugo Chavez’s thuggish way of “counteracting” hate speech.

If “hate speech” is protected by the First Amendment, the recent Helen Thomas episode has demonstrated one of the practical values of that Amendment: it allows individuals to reveal their philosophy, their morality, and their souls for all to see. One may agree with them, disagree with them, or ignore them.

But, readers, viewers, and listeners should keep this in mind if they see anything benign in government regulation of speech: One of its purposes is to rig the airwaves, newspapers, television, and the Internet so that one cannot ignore its own propaganda, or know any truth but what the government says it is. How would one be able to judge or determine the truth? That would entail thinking, which is precisely what the government doesn’t want anyone to do. Just believe, and obey.

Paul Hsieh’s article on the FCC and FTC’s “probe” of the media, “Use It or Lose It,” outlines the necessary intellectual actions to uphold freedom of speech:

If bloggers, independent journalists, and ordinary thinking Americans value our free speech, then we must do the following:

1. We must articulate and defend a proper definition of free speech and of censorship.
2. We must defend free speech on the proper grounds of individual rights, rather than on utilitarian grounds that it promotes some “social good.” This includes defending free speech in principle, even when some people express views we consider odious. For liberals, this includes defending speech they may find bigoted or offensive. For social conservatives, this includes defending speech promoting alternative lifestyles they may find morally repugnant.
3. We must defend the principle of free speech not just in politics but throughout the full range of our culture — including science, art, and philosophy. We must defend the freedom of individuals to criticize another’s scientific or religious views as vigorously as their right to debate banking regulations.

“Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom,” wrote Ayn Rand. “Political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.”* The current administration has made clear its attacks on intellectual freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom.

An attack on one has always implicitly meant an attack on the other two. This is what those who would defend the First Amendment must also understand. They must grasp that indivisible integration of freedoms. One cannot uphold freedom of speech to the exclusion of the other preconditions of it, as liberals have done for over a century, which is uphold freedom of speech while advocating the seizure or control of property. Logical consistency required that they now attack what they once defended. Their more ideologically consistent and activist brethren on the Left are only too happy to oblige.

*”For the New Intellectual,” in For the New Intellectual (1961). New York: Signet/Penguin Books, p. 25.

The Stalking Horses of “Delegitimization”

The organizers of the “Freedom Flotilla” thought they could shame Israel into lifting its blockade of Gaza by making it concede that the “humanitarian” supplies it carried in its various holds were indeed merely “humanitarian.” They are oblivious or indifferent, but mostly hostile, to the necessity of Israel needing to inspect those cargos for arms and military materiel being smuggled to the terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas does not so much govern Gaza’s 1.5 million people (aka “Palestinians”) as rules them with fear and an iron fist. It is repeated the world over that Israel “occupies” Gaza and is cruel and even “genocidal,” when in fact Hamas occupies Gaza and is cruel and has genocide in mind in its campaign to destroy Israel.

The last thing Hamas would want to see is a happy, well-fed, healthy, and carefree Palestinian. It, Iran, and Hezbollah have a vested interest in the continued suffering and misery of the Palestinians, and in maintaining their collective identity as oppressed Palestinians. But, if the election results are to be accepted at face value, the Palestinians elected their abusers. So, no anguish should be wasted on these “stateless” hordes.

Israel bungled its raid on the biggest vessel in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, sailing under the Turkish flag. From a helicopter it dropped commandos armed with only paintball guns and side arms (the paintball guns intended to mark troublemakers), only to have them brutally attacked by terrorists Israeli intelligence should have known would be on the vessel, given the organization’s proven ties to Hamas. This folly has been discussed more thoroughly elsewhere. Eleven “peace” activists died, including one Turkish-American. Many of these “activists” wrote their wills in expectation that they would die as Islamic martyrs when they “resisted” the Israeli boarding party. The Mavi Marmara was a setup, designed to entrap Israel. Note that terrorists usually prefer to be referred to as “resistance” fighters, when in truth they are the aggressors. Oft times they are called “freedom fighters”; we should take that term literally, because it is freedom they are fighting.

Further, one must question the “humanitarian” compassion of the flotilla activists who were not terrorists. I have yet to hear of them organizing an underground railroad for Iranian dissenters. I don‘t recall them demonstrating in protest of the murder of Neda Soltani, the Iranian girl killed by a government sniper during the June demonstrations last year against the rigged reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Have they launched a raid on Cuban prisons to free political prisoners, or sent aid to Venezuelans suffering under Hugo Chavez’s impoverishing tyranny? No.

But when the regimes of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela employ force against their political opposition, either in the streets or in violent purges, the silence of these “humanitarians” is deafening. We never hear of them organizing a flotilla with the purpose of “embarrassing” a dictatorship and bringing world opprobrium to bear on it.

These humanitarians are very selective of which tyrannies they oppose. If it’s a moderately free country, which Israel is, and especially if it is productive despite its socialism, then they’re against it. Never mind that its committed enemies wish to destroy it and initiate a second holocaust. Never mind the many Israelis murdered by Hamas, Hezbollah, the PLO, and other “freedom fighters”; they were guilty by association and deserved to die. As for Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela — well, these are cultural matters beyond judgment and it would be arrogant to meddle in those countries’ affairs. Why, it would be the height of moral hegemony!

Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum on June 4th notes that the flotilla ruse was merely the latest instance of an attempt to emasculate Israel’s moral right to self-defense.

Instead of launching planes, tanks, and ships at the Jewish state, they turned to other means – weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and (most recently) political delegitimization. Delegitimization turns the rules of war upside down: in particular strength is weakness and public opinion has supreme importance.

Or, the “weakness” of the “non-violent,” “peaceful” flotilla is exploited to rally world opinion against Israel when its military stops the flotilla — and walks into a public relations ambush (when it foolishly discounted the possibility of armed terrorists being on the Mavi Marmara).

Charles Krauthammer, in his June 4th no-holds-barred column in The Washington Post, “Those Troublesome Jews,“ expands on the tactic of delegitimization and explains the special focus on Israel:

Oh, but weren’t the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel’s offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, to be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza — as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza.

Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel’s inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas.

Israel has already twice intercepted ships laden with Iranian arms destined for Hezbollah and Gaza. What country would allow that?

Brigitte Gabriel also explains that the organization that oversaw the flotilla, the Turkish-based International Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), does not have humanitarian relief in mind so much as enfeebling and disarming Israel:

IHH is an associate of Hamas and a member of the Union of the Good. This Union is headed by Yousef Al Qaradawi, one of the world’s most notorious Islamic terrorists (banned in England and America) and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. IHH was already involved in the purchasing of automatic weapons from other militant Islamic groups as far back as 1990 when their President Bulent Yildrim was focused on recruiting “Veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming Holy war [jihad].”

Simply put, IHH is a jihadist group cloaked in a humanitarian outfit. It has played important roles in terrorist operations such as the Millennium bomb plot and has been involved in weapons trafficking.

Simply put, the IHH, like many such Islamic-controlled “charities,” is a stalking horse, concealing its true purpose, which is the destruction of Israel. In this instance, the stalking horse was a flotilla whose passengers were mostly vessels of indiscriminate, selfless compassion and exemplars of useful idiocy. Nevertheless, they are knowing abettors to the crime.

Closer to home, another stalking horse is the federal government’s fabricated and wholly unwarranted angst over the “excesses” of freedom of speech — the alleged ubiquity of “hate speech” in talk radio and cable TV, and the news reported on the Internet in competition with the “traditional” print media. It is an angst prodded by collectivist and leftist groups who wish to be protected from whatever truths might be revealed about them, who wish to establish government-imposed criteria of what constitutes “news” and the credentials of journalists, and to better indoctrinate the American public without any interference from whistle-blowers.

As reported elsewhere, the advocates of “net neutrality,” government control of news reportage, and the regulation of information are creeping closer to their goals with little opposition from those who ought to be beating to quarters in defense of the First Amendment. Just as the IHH and other “humanitarian” outfits can count on the MSM to condemn Israel over the “vulnerability” and plight of the Palestinians, organizations in the U.S. can count on the MSM to turn a blind eye to their purposes of seeing the First Amendment gutted, abridged and rendered meaningless to protect the “vulnerable” and the “oppressed.” They are coming out of the woodwork, lured by the Obama administration’s lukewarm regard for the Constitution.

What we have been witnessing for some years is a stealthy, incremental attempt to “delegitimize” the First Amendment and the freedom of speech by sending out the stalking horse of “hate speech.” It can be defined as any utterance that may “hurt” or “offend” certain groups, or potentially incite others to violence against those groups. But who will decide what is and is not “hate speech,” in what venue it may or may not be permitted, and how should the government be empowered to censor it?

In absolute, unqualified accordance with the First Amendment, that Congress shall pass no law infringing on the freedom of speech or infringing on the freedom of the press, we have the example of White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who exercised her freedom of speech by making viciously bigoted comments about Jews on the occasion of the Gaza flotilla raid. She had every right to say what she said, but she has paid the price for her virulence. Public and official outrage (perhaps only embarrassment) compelled her to resign her place in the White House press corps and end her long career.

No government agency compelled her to say what she said; no government agency censored her words, which certainly fell under the definition of “hate speech.” No government agency forced her to give up her career. No government agency forced a speakers bureau to drop her from its list. No government agency is warning the Hearst Corporation to fire her.

If the government had had the power to censor her hate speech — whether on the Internet or in the “traditional” press — would we know the truth about Helen Thomas? No.

If “hate speech” is protected by the First Amendment, the Helen Thomas episode has demonstrated one of the practical values of that Amendment: it allows individuals to reveal their philosophy, their morality, and their souls for all to see. One may agree with them, disagree with them, or ignore them. And the only individuals who might be “incited” to violence against Jews by Thomas‘s hate speech, have been subjecting Jews and Israel to violence for decades: the Islamic jihadists of all stripes and suasions.

The Thomas episode, and the proper response to her words, could not have happened at a more crucial time. It may give the advocates of censorship reason to pause — for the time being — until a more amenable instance of hate speech rears its ugly head. The world was busy condemning Israel — and, by implication, Jews — for the horrendous act of defending its right to exist.

And then Helen Thomas opened her mouth, and spooked the stalking horse away. The world had to condemn one or the other: Israel, or Helen Thomas’s bile. It couldn’t have it both ways — at least, not for the moment.

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