Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Battle at Home: The Wars on Journalism and Privacy

Bill to protect journalists clears the Senate Judiciary Committee

Drowned out by barrage of saber-rattling at Syria and now Iran, the Senate Judiciary Committee quietly approved a new media shield bill on Thursday.  Protecting journalists is a good thing, but since legislation often brings with it a Monkey's Paw-style unintended consequence, this new law will actually do more harm than good. What actually occurred is more clearly spelled out in this article from USA Today.  In short, the bill will define who is and isn't a "journalist" for the purposes of legal protection.  The original wording extended protection to anyone engaged in investigation for the purposes of disseminating information to the public.  Sounds good to me.  But the text was amended via compromise over objections that it went too far.  Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein was the biggest opponent, stating that she didn't want to extend legal protection to the Edward Snowdens of the world or to bloggers.  So there is now a "test" to determine who is and is not a legitimate journalist.  A journalist is someone who is "an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years."  Essentially, if you don't get paid for it, it's not "journalism." 

A big issue with the bill is the so-called "Wikileaks exemption" which means that not only is Wikileaks not covered, but any journalist who is viewed as compromising national security isn't either.  Basically, the bill fails to protect journalists when they need it most.  You can read the full text of the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2013" here.  If you're not fluent in legislation-ese, I'll translate: You're protected until we say you aren't. 

It's all just more smoke and mirrors, and few people seem to care.  Imagine for a second that the bill defined a "gun owner" as someone who bought their gun from a brick-and-mortar store only, and thus anyone who was gifted a gun or bought one from another individual wasn't protected by the Second Amendment.  The uproar would be deafening, but this bill is ignored.  Never mind the fact that is in direct violation of the First Amendment, regardless of which school of interpretation you belong to:

"Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

The "Free Flow of Information Act" does both.  While I'm a supporter of gun rights (and basically anything else which doesn't harm others), the Second Amendment gets undue attention.  Society has a constant public debate about what does and doesn't impinge on our Second Amendment rights, all while the rest of them are being eroded at a dizzying pace.  But what do I know, I'm not a journalist.

Speaking of the War on Journalists, there's an update in the Michael Hastings case.  The FBI is still investigating him even after his death.  The memo that was released was heavily redacted because it's part of an "on-going criminal investigation."  Here's more info about the article referenced in the documents.

In other news you might have missed: The "Monsanto Protection Act" was extended for three more months.  The bill shields BioAg companies like Monsanto and Cargill from being sued for any damages caused by consuming their products.  Although Monsanto et al. constantly gets carte blanche from the US government, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is related to something very specific that hasn't bubbled to the surface yet. 

There's going to be a new Fed Chairman soon, and the word is that Obama wants it to be Larry Summers.  I'll let you read for yourself what Larry Summers has done in his career, but suffice to say that he's pretty much directly responsible for most of the things wrong with America.  It would be terrible if he was nominated, but I think we can all agree that the real travesty is that he's walking around a free man today. 

Also flying under most people's radar this week is the latest news from Edward Snowden: the United States' "black budget" for intelligence is $52.6 billion.  If you're not familiar with the term, "black budget" is name for funds allocated to government agencies for which there is no accountability or reporting.  You can read the released document here.  This should give everyone pause since A) you're paying for it and B) other recent revelations have shown most of it is being used to spy on you.  As proof, here's a long, well-written article on all the NSA has been doing to make sure they can read your emails

In Other News:
More on the new inquiries into the death of Princess Di.  It's interesting to note that this exact scenario has long been touted by conspiracy theorists after it was revealed that a similar plan was considered to kill Slobodan Milosevic. 
Hitler's bodyguard died.  Note that he says, "We heard no shot, we heard nothing," in regards to Hitler's suicide.  Misch states he was present at the cremation of the body, but fails to mention that Hitler had as many as six doubles, and at least one of them had been killed previously to make the Allies think Hitler was dead.  What am I getting at?  Nothing really, because only insane people -- like President Eisenhower -- think that Hitler survived.  Hitler surviving is a possible explanation for Marina Oswald's diary, aka Warren Commission exhibit 106.  It has "Schicklgruber, Adolf (H.)" written on the back cover.  Schicklgruber was Hitler's father's adopted last name.  How Marina Oswald, a 22 year old Russian immigrant, would have known this is never explained.