Tuesday, November 27, 2007

FCC Attempts to Assert Control Over Cable

Relying on a minor clause in a 1984 law, the FCC is attempting to assert regulatory control over the cable industry. The FCC contends that cable companies now reach a wide enough audience and intends to assert control to "ensure diverse programming." (FCC Vote Affecting Cable TV in Jeopardy.)

There is already a regulatory agency overseeing the cable industry and ensuring programming choices appropriate for the local market. That agency is known as the local consumer. All legislation and regulation has done to the cable industry is eliminated programming that was available to the consumer prior to the enactment of such legislation. In the Rhode Island area, for example, several popular Boston area channels were removed from the line-up as a result of legislation intended to protect the local channels if two or more belonged to the same network. That the Boston area channels had always been available over-the-air didn't seem to factor into the equation. That is what legislation and regulation can do to the cable industry.

The FCC has forever been an agency devoted to controlling not only the diversity of programming, but also the content of that programming. The programming freedom enjoyed on the subscription channels has never been available to channels that fell under FCC regulation. Rather than permit the market - that is, we the viewers - to determine what type programming is appropriate and what is offensive, the FCC believes itself to be far better suited to make that determination for us. What has never quite been explained is how the FCC fails to violate the freedom of speech portion of the First Amendment by asserting such control over the type of programming permissible.

Rather than expand the authority of the FCC, what is sorely needed is a retraction of the oversight granted to that agency. The cable industry, and more importantly the American consumer, does not need an extension of the FCC's policies into a programming model that currently best serves the demands of the consumer. More programming restrictions as imposed by the FCC will only result in higher costs and less programming choices. Neither the industry nor the consumer would benefit from either. The FCC is intrusive enough already. We certainly don't need it meddling in the cable industry as well.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Supreme Court Tackles 2nd Amendment

One simple sentence in the US Constitution has caused more debate and been the cause of more controversy than any other. That sentence appears in the Second Amendment and is written as follows:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

For the first time in 68 years, the US Supreme Court will tackle the meaning of that one simple statement. Specifically, they will attempt to clarify the meaning of one simple comma. You see, there are two ways to interpret the Second Amendment. One popular interpretation, and the one lower courts have used since 1936, is that the right to keep and bear arms is restricted to a state run militia. The other interpretation supported by libertarians and those that favor private gun ownership is that the right to keep and bear arms is granted to the individual not the militia.

The Supreme Court has not ruled on this issue in 68 years but has agreed to do so now, offering a decision in July 2008 - just in time for the November elections. With individual rights being weakened considerably every day, ostensibly under the guise of safety, the Supreme Court's decision could have staggering implications.

What most people seem to forget in this entire debate is the attitude of the framers of the Constitution. The basic belief of the men that wrote this document, and those that wrote the second amendment, is that the people have a fundamental inalienable right to overthrow the government. They said precisely that in the Declaration of Independence:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The framers of the Constitution, in drafting the Second Amendment, sought to ensure that the people would always have the means to overthrow a corrupt government. It is not to a well regulated militia that the right to keep and bear arms is granted. After all, the militia belongs to the state and by definition bears arms. In 1787, the individual state militias collectively constituted the US military. Of course the militia has the right to keep and bear arms! No, the right granted in the second amendment is granted to the People, and it is granted as a defence against the state run militia. It is not to the militia that the right is granted, but rather it is because the militia must exist that the people must retain that right.

When you study the Bill of Rights, you find a series of protections granted the people as a direct response to abuses that had been perpetrated against the colonies at least since the start of the Seven Years War (French and Indian War in the US.) The Bill of Rights was intended to prevent the fledgling US government from engaging in the same civil rights abuses, and the second amendment was no exception. That amendment was introduced to directly counter the British practice of disarming the colonists in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

Which way this court will rule is anybody's guess. The Supreme Court has not been overly sympathetic to the rights of the individual in recent years. Especially in the aftermath of 9/11, the Court has ruled increasingly in favor of the Government over the rights of the individual, and the protections written into the Bill of Rights have been continuously eroded. That is the danger we face with this Court taking up the 2nd Amendment challenge at this time. Should the People lose the right to keep and bear arms, then all other amendments in the Bill of Rights become worthless.

Now more than ever we should heed the motto written on the cover of "An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania":

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Let us hope the nine justices that sit the Supreme Court are familiar with that phrase.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Internet: Politic's New Mud Pit

Since my friends all know that I'm politically conservative, I often receive copies of the various e-mail chain letters that bash the candidates on the left. The two most recent letters that I've seen circulate accuse Senator Clinton of being a closet communist, offering a litany of quotes that are blatantly Marxist. The second letter shows a photo of the leading Democrats allegedly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone has their hand over their heart except Senator Obama, and the letter goes on to claim that he refuses to recite the Pledge.

First of all, let's clear the air regarding these two e-mail chain letters. First we have Senator Clinton spouting Marxist propaganda. Every single quote in that e-mail chain is accurate. She did in fact say all of them at one time or another. Unfortunately, every single one of them was lifted out of context. When you read the entire context in which she made each statement, the meaning is completely changed and very few people - even conservatives - would have any issue with what she was saying. Here is the truth about the Hillary Clinton e-mail.

Now onto the Senator Obama e-mail chain. To begin with, the candidates were not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. They were standing for the National Anthem. There has never surfaced any evidence to suggest or affirm that the Senator has ever refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. There is also no evidence at all to suggest that he was at all disrespectful towards the National Anthem in that scenario.

Now, he has taken a good deal of heat for his decision to stop wearing a lapel pin. Personally, I don't agree with his decision there - I've been wearing a lapel pin since 9/11 to show my support for the troops that are currently in combat - but I understand his logic. You see, the lapel pin really has become just another political prop and has lost its meaning. So while I wish he would wear the pin for the reasons I do, I can respect his reasons for not wearing it, and it has nothing to do with his patriotism. Here is the truth about Senator Obama and both the Anthem and the lapel pin.

This is the danger of the Internet. People have a tendency to view anything they receive via e-mail as factual without ever attempting to confirm the veracity of the statements rendered. Now that we've entered the 2008 campaign season, there's no doubt that we're going to be inundated with these false but politically damaging chain letters. They are virtually untraceable but they can do an extreme amount of damage to the candidate. While I don't believe I've heard Senator Clinton make comment about the Marxist letter, Senator Obama is definitely taking the gloves off in responding to his patriotism attacks. That he is responding to this degree is testament to the amount of damage these false accusations can do.

So here's what I wish everyone would do. Don't forward any chain letters until you've verified the accuracy of the letter. Snopes is an excellent reference source for these types of urban legends, and it doesn't take too much effort to verify the claims before spreading the gossip.

Whether or not the candidates deserve fair treatment is pretty much irrelevant. The American voter certainly does deserve fair treatment, and spreading this type of muck does all of us a disservice. It's libel at best, and at its worst it undermines our political process. We need to select candidates based on the issues that affect us the most and based on how each candidate responds to those issues. We don't need slanderous e-mails in the mix spreading misinformation and outright lies about the candidates on either side of the aisle.