Lawmakers Worry Meritless Lawsuits Threaten Free Speech
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Posted by admin | Free Speech
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, Issues
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, Property Rights
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| Friday 13 August 2010 4:30 PM

From The Texas Tribune

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When Dallas developer H. Walker Royall found out about an impending book digging into one of his projects, he went on a lawsuit bender.

He sued the author, Carla Main, and her publisher, Encounter Books. He sued Richard Epstein — the prominent libertarian academic — for a blurb he wrote praising the book. He sued Mark Lardas, who reviewed the book, and the Galveston County Daily News for publishing the review. His suit against Main and her publisher — the lower court dropped Epstein as a defendant on jurisdictional grounds, and Lardas and his newspaper settled with Royall out of court — has since become a poster child for so-called SLAPPs: strategic lawsuits against public participation.

SLAPP plaintiffs use the court system to bury opponents in a crush of legal fees and paperwork of Bleak House proportions. They are not about winning damages. They usually don’t expect to be successful, and their targets often don’t have the money to defend the case. For the wealthy like Royall, and corporations equipped with teams of lawyers and swollen legal budgets, the cost-benefit analysis is easy: Foot the expense of a lawsuit through whatever means available — usually a defamation or libel claim — and enjoy the benefit of intimidating current and future critics into silence.

Main wrote her book in the wake of Kelo v. City of New London, a controversial 2005 Supreme Court decision that approved a city’s use of eminent domain to seize land from one private property holder to sell it to another in the name of economic development. It describes an attempt by the Gulf Coast town of Freeport to condemn the property of a couple’s shrimp business so that Royall could build a marina. Royall, whose attorney did not respond to The Texas Tribune’s request for comment, argues in papers filed with the court that Main defamed him. (Incidentally, the same libertarian public interest law firm that argued against New London at the Supreme Court, the Institute for Justice, is representing Main).

A lower court denied Main’s request for summary judgment, which asks the judge to rule on the evidence before a case goes to trial. Main and her attorney have appealed that decision, and the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas will hear oral arguments in the case on Sept. 28.

Because SLAPP lawsuits can be brought under all different kinds of claims and depend on the motive of the plaintiff, it’s difficult to quantify their prevalence in Texas. But the phenomenon has generated enough concern among lawmakers at the state and federal levels that they are moving to pass legislation to thwart what some view as the next great threat to First Amendment rights in the 21st century.

In Texas, a quirk of state legal procedure makes their victims especially vulnerable, according to Austin attorney Laura Prather, the president of the board of directors of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. State law does not include a “motion to dismiss” — which in other states, and at the federal level, allows a judge to toss out a claim before parties undergo the expensive process of discovery. Instead, if a defendant wants a judge in Texas to rule on a case before trial, he must ask for a summary judgment, which happens after all the evidence in the case has come out through discovery. That’s plenty of time for a SLAPP plaintiff to drown a defendant in requests for documents, depositions and pretrial hearings.

Prather says she’s in talks with lawmakers, including state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, about forming a coalition to pass an anti-SLAPP statute next session. In an e-mail, Ellis said he planned to introduce a bill that would protect Texans from being “sued into silence,” citing the “chilling effect” the lawsuits had on the practice of free speech.

In Congress, U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzales, D-San Antonio, recently signed on to federal legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., that would allow defendants to move to a lawsuit from state to federal court (defamation and libel claims are usually brought under state law), where a judge could evaluate whether the claim threatens the defendant’s First Amendment rights. Gonzales says his experience as a district court judge taught him about the dangers of SLAPP suits — he believes the courtroom should be a “level playing field,” not a place that benefits the “very powerful who have numerous lawyers.”

According to the Public Participation Project, a group that advocates for First Amendment rights, 27 states have anti-SLAPP laws. Gonzales says legislatures can be effective in preventing meritless suits, though he believes a federal law will provide uniformity across the judicial system. That’s particularly important in an age where companies are turning to lawsuits to quell online criticism. Without a federal law, some anti-SLAPP advocates believe internet claims dealing with multiple jurisdictions could allow plaintiffs to “forum-shop” — that is, choose the court venue they think most favors their purposes.

In Texas, lawmakers have tried to pass some version of an anti-SLAPP statute since the late 1990s. Prather says the failure of the bills stems not so much from active opposition but from low priority. A bill this coming session, she believes, could attract the support of tort-reform groups, which exercise vigorous influence in the Legislature.

Hugh Rice Kelly, the general counsel of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, said his group favors such a law and that it is on the group’s agenda for next session. But he cautions that across the country, “there are very few SLAPP statutes that are in fact meaningful.” Texans for Lawsuit Reform opposed an anti-SLAPP bill from state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, in 2007 — because it viewed it as “over-broad” on several counts, including its language defining a “harassing” lawsuit. The closest Texas has come to anti-SLAPP statute was in 2001, when another bill from Peña Raymond passed the House and Senate, only to have Gov. Rick Perry veto it. The governor called it “a radical departure from traditional concepts of our adversarial justice system and the role of the courts.” He said he opposed it because it would have created a new cause of action — a basis to sue — by holding lawyers liable if a court ruled they had brought a meritless suit on behalf of their clients.

Dallas attorney Chip Babcock, who represented Oprah Winfrey in the now-famous Texas Beef Growers lawsuit (the group sued the talk show host for saying mad-cow disease “has just stopped me cold from eating another burger” on her program in 1996), thinks Texas could benefit from an anti-SLAPP statute.

“Just one case against someone who’s a citizen journalist with a blog would be enough to get them to quit talking about things,” says Babcock, who adds that a judge would have tossed the case out against Winfrey if such a statute existed. “It’s no answer for that person to say, well at the end of the day, I’m going to win my case, because at the end of the day they’re going to have to hire a lawyer to navigate them through the shoals of pretrial discovery and summary judgment practice, and it’s very expensive.”

A Congressional Assault on Free Speech
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Posted by admin | Free Speech
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, Issues
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| Friday 18 June 2010 4:34 PM

From City Watch LA

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In January 2010 the United States Supreme Court made a landmark decision in the case of “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” The case was a challenge against so-called campaign finance rules adopted by Congress and enforced by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that limited the ability of businesses to participate in the political process by contributing money for things like issue based advertising. In a 5-4 decision the Court ruled that this law was a violation of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which states: “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.” The Justices found that corporations and the shareholders who own these businesses have the same rights to free speech as any other groups or individuals, including labor unions.

This decision infuriated those in Obama’s administration to the point that President Obama took the unprecedented action of publicly scolding the members of the Court when they sat in front of him during his State of the Union address. He claimed that the ruling opened the door to foreign corporations to influence our elections. That is not true.

However, since the many in Congress are now facing the prospect of heavy losses in the upcoming November 2010 elections they have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to adopt new regulations that would clearly violate the ruling of the Supreme Court and the provisions of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. As usual, this is a lengthy and complicated piece of legislation but the intent is clear. The free speech right of businesses and other groups that traditionally support conservative Republican candidates will be severely limited in future elections.

For example, any group formed for political advertising purposes must disclose the names of the top five contributors to it at the end of each advertisement and the major funder of each ad must file a separate disclaimer standing by the advertisement. In addition, every corporation must disclose any political expenditure it makes on its website within 24 hours of making the expenditure. If a small family owned corporation doesn’t have a website then it probably is prohibited from any political activities at all. The Constitutional implications are clear. The right to any privacy is gone and these disclosure requirements are in direct violation of the decision by the Supreme Court.

Of particular interest are groups such as labor unions that traditionally support liberal Democrats in elections whose rights are not limited under the provisions of this 90-page piece of legislation.

Members of Congress and the Obama Administration who have drafted and support this legislation are well aware that it violates the Constitution and will inevitably be struck down by the Supreme Court. However, the game plan is obvious. The legislation will be rammed through Congress using any means necessary. Much of the work is being done in secret and the proposed legislation has already passed a key House Committee.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of the architects of HR 5175 said the “Disclose Act” as it is named “will promote transparency and disclosure, and ensure those powerful special interests spending millions of dollars are not able to hide behind third party groups, sham organizations, and dummy corporations.” However, groups like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and ACORN do not appear to be covered by these requirements.

The DISCLOSE Act will soon be brought to the House floor for a full vote. (Note: This bill was schedule for a full congressional vote Thursday.) Then it will immediately go to the Senate for Action. But how many in Congress and the Senate will actually read the Bill before its potential passage? Recent history dictates that many in Congress make comments on legislation they have not read and never intend to read, but vote consistent with other party members, irrespectively.

HR 5175 is designed to go into effect 30 days after it passes and is signed by the President.

This means the FEC will begin enforcement well prior to the November elections. Businesses, particularly small family owned corporations will not have the money or personnel to begin to understand the law and meet its requirements. They will be forced to sit out the upcoming elections or face penalties for violating the new law.

Those in Congress touting the Bill are also counting on the fact that the Supreme Court will not have an opportunity to hear any lawsuits challenging the radical law until after the election. Some Democrats feel that enforcing these unconstitutional limitations on free speech will give them the edge they need to win many close elections for Senate and House seats. This type of tactic violates everyone’s rights.

It is imperative that readers immediately contact their Senators and Representatives and let them know that the American people are well aware of what is happening here and will not tolerate it. HR 5175 can be viewed here

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Silencing Voices for School Choice
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Posted by Howard Rich | Free Speech
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, Issues
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, School Choice
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| Tuesday 27 October 2009 2:13 PM

From The Weekly Standard

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President Obama isn’t taking kindly to a television ad that criticizes his opposition to a popular scholarship program for poor children, and his administration wants the ad pulled.

Former D.C. Councilmember Kevin Chavous of D.C. Children First said October 16 that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had recently approached him and told him to kill the ad.

The 30-second ad, which has been airing on FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, and News Channel 8 to viewers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, urges the president to reauthorize the federally-funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers of up to $7,500 for D.C. students to attend private schools.

The ad features Chavous and a young boy–one of 216 students whose scholarships were rescinded by the Department of Education earlier this year when the agency announced no new students would be allowed into the program. The ad also includes an excerpt taken from one of Obama’s campaign statements.

“We’re losing several generations of kids,” Obama says, “and something has to be done.”

“President Obama is ending a program that helps low-income kids go to better schools, refusing to let any new children in,” Chavous says in the ad. “I’m a lifelong Democrat, and I support our president. But it’s wrong that he won’t support an education program that helps our kids learn.”

The young 5th-grade student then pleads for the president’s help. “President Obama, I need a good education right now,” he says. “You can help. Do it for me.”

The nation’s first black president has come under intense criticism for failing to support the program that is helping poor African-American students escape some of the nation’s most dangerous and worst-performing public schools. After embracing the teachers unions’ anti-voucher stance, the president now finds himself in the uncomfortable and awkward position of denying students access to a program that has strong bipartisan, local support, and that multiple studies say is helping poor African-American children succeed.

Little wonder then that the president and powerful allies like Holder–many of whom have benefited from school choice and are currently sending their children to expensive private schools–want the ad to go away.

Chavous discussed Holder’s comments during an Oct. 16 interview with WAMU radio host Kojo Nnamdi and NBC 4 reporter Tom Sherwood during Nnamdi’s The Politics Hour. A related article on Holder’s objection to the ad on blackamericaweb.com has also been circulating.

During the broadcast Chavous elaborated on his interaction with Holder, and said he will continue running the ad until the president agrees to support the program.

“I saw [Holder] at an event,” said Chavous. “He did ask me in front of others to pull the ad. My response was, ‘No, and I tell you what, if the president does the right thing, not only will we pull it but we will celebrate him.’ ”

“We have high hopes based on his capacity to understand the plight of low-income families,” continued Chavous. “You know what, if this were 20 years ago and community organizer Obama was in this city and picking sides, he’d be right here in this studio fighting for these parents and these kids, and we want him to remember from whence he came, and [support] these families. He had the benefit of scholarships–many of us have–and I think that these families who have already been awarded scholarships that were taken away from them by the administration, they should have that benefit as well.”

In a separate interview Chavous said he did not believe Holder’s comment was an official request. “It wasn’t like the administration was leaning on me to pull the ad–this wasn’t an intimidation play,” said Chavous, adding that he knows Holder and his wife. “This is someone who is a friend, who saw me, and let me know his thinking.”

Chavous said he told U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan this summer that he and other voucher supporters would be ramping up efforts to save the embattled program that must be re-authorized to continue.

“I told them, ‘I’m not going to let up on this because you’re not doing the right thing and I’m not going to let up,’” said Chavous. “I think they made a calculated decision that they could wait us out . . . and I want to disabuse them of that strategy. That will not be an effective strategy. We’re not going anywhere until these kids get into these schools. It’s just the right thing to do.”

Chavous said he’s been surprised at the overwhelming amount of support and encouragement he’s received from the ad. “It goes to show that the folks in this town embrace choice full-throttle,” he said.

Secretary Arne Duncan said in an email through a Department of Education spokesman that while “this Administration is devoting more resources and supports more ambitious reform of our public school systems than any Administration in history,” he believes that “vouchers are not the solution to America’s educational challenges. Taking a tiny percentage of the kids out of the public school system and putting them in private schools is not the answer. We need to be more ambitious. We need to fix all of our schools.”

The program’s defenders have signaled that the ad campaign is just getting started, and that more hard-hitting ads are on the way.

The National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and People for the American Way have been waging a massive campaign to try to kill the voucher program, which they say takes money and focus away from public schools and is discriminatory.

“Vouchers are not real education reform,” wrote the NEA’s Director of Government Relations Diane Shust in a June letter to U.S. Senators. “Pulling children out of the public school system doesn’t solve problems–it ignores them.”

But in a revealing 2006 comment to the Washington Post, Washington Teachers Union President George Parker (whose parent union is the AFT) explained what really worries the teachers unions, and why children must not be allowed to leave D.C.’s troubled public schools.

“The landscape has changed. Our parents are voting with their feet,” Parker said. “As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in D.C. schools so we’ll have teachers to represent.”

More candid teachers’ union moments came this summer when the NEA’s former General Counsel Bob Chanin addressed the group’s national convention.

“Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas; it is not because of the merit of our positions; it is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child,” Chanin proclaimed. “[The] NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year.” To which Chanin received a standing ovation.

Chanin also told delegates that anti-union sentiment was “the price we pay for success.”

The price the teacher’s unions and their members were willing to pay to ensure their presidential candidate’s success was steep. In August of 2008 the NEA announced a $50 million election campaign plan to elect Obama by targeting swing states.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama received $22.9 million from individuals affiliated with the “Education Industry” during the 2008 election cycle alone. That’s a whopping $21.1 million more than Sen. John McCain received from the same industry. These donations came predominately from individuals–many of whom are teachers’ union members–employed by educational institutions, colleges and schools. Teacher’s unions spent millions more dollars on independent expenditures on Obama’s behalf that is not even included in these figures.

Prior to his election, then-Illinois state Sen. Obama acknowledged that political realities meant that candidates cannot always answer or act from the heart.

Asked by Chicago Tribune writer David Mendell whether it might have been wiser to spend hundreds of millions of dollars improving Chicago’s troubled public schools rather than on Millennium Park, Obama replied: “How do you really expect me to answer that? If I told you how I really felt, I’d be committing political suicide right here in front of you.”


Sheryl Henderson Blunt is a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow.

FCC moves on Net neutrality rules
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Posted by Howard Rich | Free Speech
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, News
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| Friday 23 October 2009 4:00 PM

From The Washington Times

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The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to move toward new rules to prevent corporate Internet providers from charging online powers such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. extra for the large amount of infrastructure and bandwidth they use in delivering their services.

While technical, the issue of network neutrality – or Net neutrality – has sparked a furious, expensive lobbying war, as well as a raging debate in cyberspace over the government’s role in setting the rules of the road for the Internet, with some even arguing that the right to free speech in the Information Age is at stake.

The FCC commissioners said they were concerned about maintaining the Internet’s accessibility and openness and hope to issue a final set of rules early next year after a period of public comment.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, appointed by President Obama, said he was concerned about reports of some Internet providers slowing or blocking access to certain online companies.

“The heart of the problem is that, taken together, we face the dangerous combination of an uncertain legal framework with ongoing as well as emerging challenges to a free and open Internet,” Mr. Genachowski said.

He added that failing to consider new regulations “would be gambling with the most important technological innovation of our time.”

But the two Republican-appointed members of the commission, while voting to consider new regulations, said they are still skeptical there is enough evidence to justify government intervention.

“I am not convinced that there is a sufficient record to establish that a problem exists that should be addressed by [FCC] rules. … We should not adopt regulations to address anecdotes where there is no fact-based evidence that persuasively demonstrates the presence of a problem,” Commissioner Meredith A. Baker said.

The FCC move is designed to answer a basic question on how Internet services are delivered: Should cable and telecommunications companies be allowed to charge higher prices and fees to high-volume users to get access to their networks?

The proposed draft rule prevents operators from discriminating against any permissible content a third party sends through their networks – regardless of the volume of use – with exceptions only for technical reasons, such as to clear viruses and to block prohibited content such as child pornography.

While the panel voted 5-0 to proceed with the rulemaking, the commissioners broke down on party lines on a 3-2 vote to approve the proposed draft language as it now stands.

Complicating the dispute are fears from groups across the political spectrum that giving up the principle of Net neutrality opens the door to network owners censoring or favoring certain users based on the content of their sites.

“This is a down payment on creating a digital democracy,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a digital rights advocacy group.

Internet providers, including such companies as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications Inc., say they are open to working with the FCC over the next few months as it receives public comments on the draft rules, but say Net neutrality would prevent them from managing their product lines and undercut the incentive to make an estimated $350 billion in new investments to improve their networks.

“We continue to hope that any rules adopted by the commission will not harm the investment and innovation that has made the Internet what it is today and that will make it even greater tomorrow,” said David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp.

Liberal groups pushing to restrict what the Internet providers can restrict hailed Thursday’s vote.

“Today’s vote is an important step toward securing the open Internet and a victory for the public interest and civil rights organizations, small businesses, Internet innovators, political leaders and millions of people who have fought to get to this point,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, an advocacy group for “diverse and independent media ownership.”

Congressional Democrats – including Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey – have spent the last few years pushing for legislation that would encode open access to the Internet but had been unsuccessful.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, introduced his own bill to block the FCC from moving forward with a Net neutrality rule.

New rules would create “onerous federal regulation,” Mr. McCain said.

The “Fairness” Police
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Posted by Howard Rich | Columns
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, Free Speech
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, Issues
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| Thursday 8 October 2009 11:29 AM

Imagine a world in which government-owned newspapers delivered sanitized, pro-bureaucratic talking points approved by government censors for “fairness.” Now, imagine a world in which talk radio and the new media – two outlets that Americans have been turning to in record numbers to escape the barrage of sanitized, pro-bureaucratic “news” – were also under Big Brother’s “regulatory” thumb.

Now, imagine a world in which all of these outlets faced fines and the threat of being shut down if they failed to subscribe to the government’s definition of “balanced” coverage.

Does that sound like America?

Or does it sound more like a fundamentalist Islamic republic? A former Soviet satellite? Or a third-world nation run by a repressive military junta?

Citizens at every point along this nation’s political spectrum should be horrified by such a scenario – where the information they receive is essentially owned by the government. Accordingly, they should be deeply concerned that supporters of government-run media are now assuming key positions at the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies.

“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” (emphasis added).

That’s America’s First – and foremost – Amendment. Pretty cut and dried, isn’t it? In fact, within those forty-five words lies the fundamental root of all American liberties – the guarantee that our beliefs, our speech and our Fourth Estate are expressly safeguarded from governmental control and interference.

Apparently they are not safeguarded enough, though.

In fact, of all the overtly socialist notions currently making the rounds in Washington D.C., one of the most diabolical and anti-democratic is an under-the-radar push by the administration of President Barack Obama to dramatically expand government control over the free flow of information.

Leading this movement is Federal Communications Commission “diversity czar” Mark Lloyd and several current and former members of an oxymoronically-dubbed organization known as “Free Press.” Obsessed with the notion of removing America’s capitalist system “brick by brick” and creating a socialist nation, Lloyd and his “Free Press” allies view the leveling of the current media apparatus in America as a critical step in that process.

In fact, they have supported Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez in his efforts to limit freedom of the press in that country.

“Free Press” advocates aren’t even bothering to hide their ideological endgame, either. In an August 2009 interview with The Socialist Project, “Free Press” leader Robert McChesney acknowledges that the group aims to bring about a “marked shift to the political left.”

In addition to Lloyd, former “Free Press” spokeswoman Jen Howard currently serves as the spokeswoman for new FCC commissioner Julius Genachowski. Also, former Obama “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones – who was forced to resign his post last month after his communist past was exposed – is a “Free Press” board member.

Beyond just appointing representatives of these radical, anti-democratic groups to critical positions in government, Obama is also beginning to reverse himself on critical policy positions related to the maintenance of a free press.

For example, Obama originally claimed that he opposed the notion of a media bailout – which would dramatically expand governmental influence over the Fourth Estate – but he recently said that he was “happy to look at” a proposal to “rescue” U.S. newspapers.

Also, in light of his appointment of individuals who favor government regulation of radio and new media content, there is also legitimate concern that Obama and his supporters will attempt to re-impose the failed “Fairness Doctrine,” which gave government the right to fine and censor media outlets that did not present a bureaucratically-established definition of “balanced” coverage.

Over the last nine months, politicians in Washington have undertaken a systematic assault on the American marketplace. Sadly, it appears they are now turning their fire on the “marketplace of ideas.”

Diversity Czar Threatens Free Speech
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Posted by Howard Rich | Free Speech
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, Issues
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, News
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| Tuesday 1 September 2009 10:53 AM

1st Amendment: Mark Lloyd, a disciple of Saul Alinsky and fan of Hugo Chavez, wants to destroy talk radio and says free speech is a distraction. The new FCC diversity “czar” says Venezuela is an example we should follow.

When Mark Lloyd was appointed July 29 as the chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission, a nation focused on ObamaCare and a deteriorating economy took little notice. But as angry constituents flood town hall meetings and call in to talk radio, a man dedicated to silencing them sits at the right hand of the president.

They share a common hero — Saul Alinsky — who wrote the community organizer’s bible, “Rules for Radicals.” It speaks of confrontation or, as candidate Obama put it, of “getting in their faces” as a way to obtain power, not from the people or for the people, but over the people.

Lloyd has written that we make too much of the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and the press — for “the purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance.”

We thought we were democratically governed. We thought we could vote as we choose after a vigorous and open debate. Once the major networks served as information gatekeepers controlling what we saw and heard. Now talk radio, the Internet and cable news have enhanced democracy by promoting the free flow of information and discourse. Lloyd wants to stop all that.

Fox News host Glenn Beck has done yeoman work in exposing this threat posed by Mr. Lloyd. He points out that in his 2006 book, “Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America,” Lloyd wrote: “It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press. . . . This freedom is all too often an exaggeration. . . . At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.”

Lloyd wants to restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations and ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing. The kicker is he would also require owners who refuse to give up profitable air time in the name of “localism” to pay a fee to support public broadcasting.

He proposes using the existing FCC “localism” requirement, which can mean anything from running more public service announcements to putting Janeane Garofalo on after Rush Limbaugh. Local community organizers would be encouraged to harass conservative stations by filing complaints with the FCC.

He essentially proposes extorting money from broadcasters who have the audacity to air the likes of Beck, Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham, all of whom have competed in the marketplace of ideas and won in the ratings, and use it to fund those outfits nobody wants to listen to — like NPR and Air America.

As Lloyd writes, the “part of our proposal that gets the dittoheads (Rush Limbaugh fans) upset is our suggestion that the commercial radio station owners either play by the rules or pay.” Or worse.

The FCC could then say they had enough justification to revoke a station’s license if they didn’t comply or pay a fee. In true Alinsky style, shut them up by shutting them down.

Lloyd praises Hugo Chavez’s “incredible revolution” in Venezuela and the way “Chavez began to take very seriously the media in his country” by imposing restraints on cable TV and revoking the licenses of more than 200 radio stations” that insufficiently toed the Chavez party line.

Lloyd long ago declared war on unbridled talk radio and cable news. He wrote that “our work was not simply convincing policy makers of the logic and morality of our arguments. We understood that we were in a struggle for power against an opponent, the commercial broadcasters.”

When Mark Lloyd talks about diversity, it is not diversity of opinion. As in the ’60s sci-fi series, “Outer Limits,” his advice is to “sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear.”

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