Entries in First Amendment (10)

Thursday
Apr122018

Extortion isn't the American way, but that doesn't stop some.

Sussex County Watchdog has been around since the spring of 2012.  Over the years, our efforts have stopped or brought to light many instances of public corruption.  These have included attempts to sell the county dump, the premature forcing of some county employees into retirement in order to use the money for new patronage employees, the corruption at the Sussex County Community College, the use of toxic chemicals near county employees, county spending and borrowing practices, county vendors and lobbyists, the county Solar scam, and the county's poor history with OPRA.  

Along the way, we've uncovered inside deals in the awarding of tax breaks and vendors' contracts, and the purchase of land.  On several occasions, Sussex County Watchdog led the way by contacting state and federal law enforcement, as it did during the solar scam -- when this website provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Attorney General's Office with background and material information. 

From time to time, our activities have made some insiders less than happy.  There is an all-too-cozy corruption at work at the county level.  Most counties in New Jersey are actually much more corrupt than Sussex is -- but, as in the Solar scam -- our county is being colonized by other counties interested in expanding their corruption here.  

Watchdog is important because we will act when corporate media is afraid to act because some important advertiser is at the core or connected with a matter.  We are anonymous because, in a county as cozy as Sussex is, it prevents direct retribution for exercising our First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.  Anonymous speech is as American as our Founders and has been protected through the centuries by the United States Supreme Court.

Nevertheless,  our efforts have been the target of extortion attempts -- of threats designed to coerce us to stop writing in a way that offends the extorter or to write in a way more favorable to the extorter.  We have always rejected such attempts, because extortion is not only a criminal act but an existential act.  As an act of coercion, it is designed to kill free will, and so is an enemy of freedom itself. 

Extortion is the crime of obtaining money, property, or services from an individual or institution, through coercion.

Most states define extortion as the gaining of property or money by almost any kind of force, or threat of 1) violence, 2) property damage, 3) harm to reputation, or 4) unfavorable government action. While usually viewed as a form of theft/larceny, extortion differs from robbery in that the threat in question does not pose an imminent physical danger to the victim. 

Extortion is a felony in all states. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and damaging information to family, friends, or the public.  Inherent in this form of extortion is the threat to expose the details of someone's private life. 

Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats or force.   It involves a set of various types of actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce a desired response.  These actions may include, but are not limited to: extortion, blackmail, torture, threats to induce favors, or even sexual assault. In law, coercion is codified as a duress crime.  Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in a way contrary to their own interests. 

These crimes can take place over the telephone, via mail, text, email or other computer or wireless communication.  If any method of interstate commerce is used in the extortion, it can be a federal crime. 

As believers in the First Amendment and of the Bill of Rights, Sussex County Watchdog has always offered the liberty of our pages to any opposing point of view.  Write what you wish, and we will publish it.  We are an open forum, accessible to all.  And we offer anonymity to all who wish to publish.  We always have, and a few have made use of the liberty of our pages.  Some have stayed on as regular contributors.  

Unfortunately, there are many who don't want to be part of a free and open discussion.  They want to be able to exercise power, gain material benefit from the taxpayers, or seek power -- without scrutiny.  They don't want a discussion, they want power or a contract or taxpayers' money or status and they don't want to hear about it or have anyone asking questions.  These are the kinds of people who opt for extortion over the liberty of our pages. 

As one can readily appreciate, extortion is the realm of thug life, of wannabe Il Duces and Mafioso -- not of old political organizations and political families.  At least, it shouldn't be.  We have been surprised at some of the names connected with the latest attempt. 

Please allow us to provide counsel to our wannabe extorters, to those making the threats.  To those enemies of freedom, we say this:  The best way to address writing that you do not like is with more writing.  

Speech should be met with speech.  Not with threats, intimidation, coercion, and extortion.  Once you take that road there is only one way forward... as someone  who fears words, as the enemy of freedom, the book-burner, the hater of words and of journalism and of writing.  And where does it end?

It is a bloody path that you are choosing...

Friday
Feb092018

McCann doesn't do primaries but works for Democrats

Every Republican with a pulse knows what happens in a primary.  Two or more candidates duke it out -- sometimes it gets downright nasty -- but after the votes are counted and the dust clears, all sides get together behind the winner of the Republican primary and go and beat up the Democrat and win the election in November. 

That's how it was in 2016, when a lot of good conservatives worked for presidential candidates like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie, among others.  They fought for their candidates and against Donald Trump, but then got behind Donald Trump once he became the Republican nominee at the convention. 

Some Republicans, like Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, said that they couldn't support Donald Trump for President.  But at least they didn't support the Democrat ticket led by Hillary Clinton.   Later, Guadagno would be forgiven by many Republicans, including Mayor Carlos Rendo, who agreed to serve on her ticket in last year's gubernatorial race.

A very few Republicans, like candidate John McCann, continued to serve their Democrat paymasters (in McCann's case, Bergen Sheriff Michael Saudino) while Saudino was running for re-election as a Democrat on Hillary Clinton's ticket.  In our view, this is unconscionable.  Any Republican with a spine and worthy of the name should have campaigned against Michael Saudino in 2016.  He shouldn't have been taking a check from him.

But maybe John McCann doesn't understand the primary process too well because he doesn't vote in Republican primaries too often.  If his voting record is correct, McCann has showed up for one Republican primary in the last decade.  That's pretty darn lame.

For so many reasons, John McCann is a non-starter.  And this being America, we thought that we were free to express our opinion under the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.  Apparently, there are those who believe these rights should be suppressed by political power.  To this end, the first threats have arrived, from elected officials and those who are employed by elected officials.  We will be collecting them, so please, feel free to keep sending them.

Of course, those who wish to suppress us could send along their thoughts and ideas and join in the discussion that is democracy.  We would be happy to publish their thoughts and ideas if, indeed, they have any thoughts and ideas.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday
Sep272017

Public shaming is bullying. Treat it the same.

The attempt by the powerful -- in the form of the corporate media and the dominant political class -- to force others to conform to their social values or face the loss of employment, economic security, and status is textbook bullying.  In the case of Assemblyman Parker Space, it is clear that the Republican holds tastes in music and is of a socio-economic class different from that of the dominant establishment class. 

 

Space is a country boy, a blue-collar farmer, a Trump supporter, and a believer in traditional values.  This makes him a target for establishment bullying.  As for the establishment's complaints that Space used a five-letter word in private conversation, this is simply a case of rank hypocrisy by individuals who use the same words and far-far-worse in private and in public, as evidenced below.

 

Again and again, we are told that in America, we are a nation of laws.  But this is being steadily eroded by corporate media and their puppets in the political class.  With the connivance of establishment political figures the corporate media are attempting to create an extra-judicial method of determining everything from whether or not you can hold a job or operate a business to serving in public office.

 

Under this informal, extra-judicial system, the accusers do not need to produce proof of their accusations, neither does the accused have the opportunity to refute the charges made in any legal setting.  In this bullying culture, corporate media whips up a frenzy of bullying -- mobbing -- in order to indict, convict, and punish someone. 

 

The accusers simply need to "feel" that someone has done something for reasons that they disapprove of.  Of course, these "feelings" must conform to the social norms of the establishment.  Conforming to establishment norms allows some people to believe that they have the right to fire someone from his or her job, or put someone out of business, or overturn the will of the voters.

 

This is a form of technological vigilantism -- a post-modern lynch mob -- with elements of religion to it.  For "apologize... apologize... apologize," read "repent... repent... repent."  And it was specifically warned against by prescient writers like George Orwell, with the neo-religious fervor whipped up in a shaming exercise very like the two-minutes hate he describes in his great work, 1984:

 

Think of it.  Political figures like Democrat Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg actually suggested that they could reach into another person's soul to determine evil there, adjudicate on said evil, and then demand that the will of the voters be overturned and said person be stripped of public office.  Mind you, the office-holder in question -- Assemblyman Parker Space -- is one of the most popular elected officials in New Jersey, as determined by the number of votes he receives, and gets more votes than any Republican legislator in the state.  So it does take a particular kind of philosophy, distinctly undemocratic, to suggest such a thing.

 

Also remember that no laws have been broken.  Unlike Senator Robert Menendez or Assemblyman Neil Cohen or Assemblyman Raj Mukerji or any one of a hundred New Jersey Democrats who actually broke the law, but who nevertheless enjoyed and enjoy the steadfast support of fellow Democrats, Assemblyman Parker Space did nothing even remotely illegal.  Fashion was breached perhaps -- the fashion held by some elites in a few, well-to-do enclaves -- but no laws were broken.  For the moment, our Bill of Rights and our First Amendment are holding firm -- but for how long?

 

If the media can use extra-judicial shaming to deny employment, ruin a business, or overturn an election, then they will have successfully undermined the Bill of Rights without recourse to a legal challenge before the United States Supreme Court.  It is a subversion of the law, and the imposition of punitive sanctions, through the use of fashion and media technology.  Through the use of it, America will no longer be a nation of laws, but rather a nation of fashions, manipulated by a corporate media controlled by the likes of Jared Kushner, the Newhouse brothers, and the corporate racists at Gannett News.  A bullying culture in which anyone who wishes to work, own a business, or hold office will have to conform to the establishment norms of the bullying class.

Sunday
Sep242017

Public shaming is the road to Fascism

We are told that in America, we are a nation of laws.  But increasingly, we are not.  With the connivance of political figures like Senate Democrat Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Democrat Executive Director Mark Matzen, the corporate media are attempting to create an extra-judicial method of determining everything from whether or not you can hold a job or operate a business to serving in public office.

 

Under this informal, extra-judicial system, the accusers do not need any proof -- as we recognize that term in our legal process -- to indict, convict, and punish someone.  The accusers, who are generally the media and political figures like Weinberg, simply need to "feel" that someone has done something for reasons that they disapprove of.  It can even be as simple as saying that you are personally "tired" of someone, as was done in a recent Star-Ledger column.  Just being "tired" of someone makes some people believe that they have the right to fire someone from his or her job, or put someone out of business, or overturn the will of the voters.

 

This is a form of technological vigilantism -- a post-modern lynch mob -- with elements of religion to it.  For "apologize... apologize... apologize," read "repent... repent... repent."  And it was specifically warned against by prescient writers like George Orwell, with the neo-religious fervor whipped up in a shaming exercise very like the two-minutes hate he describes in his great work, 1984:

Think of it.  Political figures like Weinberg and Matzen actually suggested that they could reach into another person's soul to determine evil there, adjudicate on said evil, and then demand that the will of the voters be overturned and said person be stripped of public office.  Mind you, the office-holder in question -- Assemblyman Parker Space -- is one of the most popular elected officials in New Jersey, as determined by the number of votes he receives, and gets more votes than any Republican legislator in the state.  So it does take a particular kind of philosophy, distinctly undemocratic, to suggest such a thing.

 

Also remember that no laws have been broken.  Unlike Senator Robert Menendez or Assemblyman Neil Cohen or Assemblyman Raj Mukerji or any one of a hundred New Jersey Democrats who actually broke the law but who, nevertheless, the Weinbergs and the Matzens dutifully stood behind, Assemblyman Parker Space did nothing even remotely illegal.  Fashion was breached perhaps -- the fashion held by some elites in a few, well-to-do enclaves -- but no laws were broken.  For the moment, we still have our Bill of Rights and our First Amendment.  But they are working on it.

 

If the media can use extra-judicial shaming to deny employment, ruin a business, or overturn an election, then they will have successfully undermined the Bill of Rights without recourse to a legal challenge before the United States Supreme Court.  In their minds, that is the beauty of what they are trying to do.  It is a subversion of the law, and the imposition of punitive sanctions, through the use of fashion and media technology.  Through the use of it, America will no longer be a nation of laws, but rather a nation of fashions, manipulated by a corporate media controlled by the likes of Jared Kushner, the Newhouse brothers, and the corporate racists at Gannett News.  Pleasant thought?


Monday
Aug142017

A Democrat asks: "Where does free speech end?"

A Democrat activist wrote:  "Where does free speech end?  Certainly at the grill of a Dodge Challenger.  KKK and confederate flags have always been around in my lifetime, protected as free speech, but nazi (sic) flags?  With a war in living memory that killed millions and a movement that killed millions more, I thought swastikas were a red line.  Are nazi (sic) flags free speech?  I know/hope that republicans (sic) don't support this but will they speak up, or are they entirely spineless?"

 

Purposefully running down somebody with an automobile isn't free speech.  It is murder.  Because it happened in Virginia, with its Republican Legislature (the GOP controls the Senate 21 to 19 and the House of Delegates 66 to 34), if convicted the perpetrator will get the death penalty and will be executed for his crime. 

 

This wouldn't happen in New Jersey, with its Democrat-controlled Legislature.  Here the perpetrator would be coddled at taxpayer expense and would, perhaps, sue the state because he wasn't receiving enough benefits.  It wasn't long ago that a convicted rapist sued the state so that he could have a sex-change operation and serve the remainder of his sentence as a "woman".  Of course, James Randall Smith, who was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 17-year-old girl, expected the state's taxpayers to pay for his sex-change operation.

 

As for Nazi flags, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has argued that a Nazi flag is as much an element of free speech as is burning the American flag.  On its website, the ACLU explains why it defended Nazis:

 

"In 1978, the ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a neo-Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie , where many Holocaust survivors lived. The notoriety of the case caused some ACLU members to resign, but to many others the case has come to represent the ACLU's unwavering commitment to principle. In fact, many of the laws the ACLU cited to defend the group's right to free speech and assembly were the same laws it had invoked during the Civil Rights era, when Southern cities tried to shut down civil rights marches with similar claims about the violence and disruption the protests would cause."

 

The ACLU makes its arguments for all to read, on its website, and we encourage everyone to visit the website (www.aclu.org):

 

"Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition -- this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is 'the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.'

Without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither and die. 

 

But in spite of its 'preferred position' in our constitutional hierarchy, the nation's commitment to freedom of expression has been tested over and over again. Especially during times of national stress, like war abroad or social upheaval at home, people exercising their First Amendment rights have been censored, fined, even jailed. Those with unpopular political ideas have always borne the brunt of government repression. It was during WWI -- hardly ancient history -- that a person could be jailed just for giving out anti-war leaflets. Out of those early cases, modern First Amendment law evolved. Many struggles and many cases later, ours is the most speech-protective country in the world.

 

The path to freedom was long and arduous. It took nearly 200 years to establish firm constitutional limits on the government's power to punish 'seditious'  and 'subversive' speech. Many people suffered along the way, such as labor leader Eugene V. Debs, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Espionage Act just for telling a rally of peaceful workers to realize they were 'fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder.'  Or Sidney Street, jailed in 1969 for burning an American flag on a Harlem street corner to protest the shooting of civil rights figure James Meredith...

 

Early Americans enjoyed great freedom compared to citizens of other nations. Nevertheless, once in power, even the Constitution's framers were guilty of overstepping the First Amendment they had so recently adopted. In 1798, during the French-Indian War, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act, which made it a crime for anyone to publish 'any false, scandalous and malicious writing' against the government. It was used by the then-dominant Federalist Party to prosecute prominent Republican newspaper editors during the late 18th century.

 

Throughout the 19th century, sedition, criminal anarchy and criminal conspiracy laws were used to suppress the speech of abolitionists, religious minorities, suffragists, labor organizers, and pacifists. In Virginia prior to the Civil War, for example, anyone who 'by speaking or writing maintains that owners have no right of property in slaves'  was subject to a one-year prison sentence.

 

The early 20th century was not much better. In 1912, feminist Margaret Sanger was arrested for giving a lecture on birth control. Trade union meetings were banned and courts routinely granted injunctions prohibiting strikes and other labor protests. Violators were sentenced to prison. Peaceful protesters opposing U. S. entry into World War I were jailed for expressing their opinions. In the early 1920s, many states outlawed the display of red or black flags, symbols of communism and anarchism. In 1923, author Upton Sinclair was arrested for trying to read the text of the First Amendment at a union rally. Many people were arrested merely for membership in groups regarded as 'radical' by the government. It was in response to the excesses of this period that the ACLU was founded in 1920.

 

...The ACLU has often been at the center of controversy for defending the free speech rights of groups that spew hate, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis. But if only popular ideas were protected, we wouldn't need a First Amendment. History teaches that the first target of government repression is never the last. If we do not come to the defense of the free speech rights of the most unpopular among us, even if their views are antithetical to the very freedom the First Amendment stands for, then no one's liberty will be secure. In that sense, all First Amendment rights are 'indivisible.'

 

Censoring so-called hate speech also runs counter to the long-term interests of the most frequent victims of hate: racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. We should not give the government the power to decide which opinions are hateful, for history has taught us that government is more apt to use this power to prosecute minorities than to protect them. As one federal judge has put it, tolerating hateful speech is 'the best protection we have against any Nazi-type regime in this country.'"

 

Everyone should ask themselves the question, "Where does free speech end?"  And then follow that question with another:  "When do you want it to end?"