Thursday, June 17, 2010

First Amendment blog assault continues...

So School Committee Chair Michael DeChiara has not seen his name in print for a few weeks and conveniently decided to continue stoking the fires of censorship by sending a follow-up missive (this time only signed by His Majesty and not the other 4 School Committee Chairs) to the District Attorney attempting to rebut the rightfully concerned ACLU counter-letter that garnered equal headlines to his initial PR ploy.

Okay, fair enough. But one thing you probably should not do in a letter to the DA, who is after all an attorney, is to admit you are "not a lawyer and cannot offer case citations," but then go on to suggest the ACLU lawyers who are lawyers--and well respected ones at that--did "not read the 5/18/10 letter carefully."

DeChiara whines, "Because many of us perceive the possibility of a conflict between Freedom of Expression and Massachusetts' Open Meeting Law it is my/our public belief that many of us are that many public officials are self censoring; limiting their freedom of expression as a result of murky legal waters."

Oh really? So who are all these public officials holding back their desire to found a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress because they fear violation of state law? Can you name one or two? And last I looked the state of Massachusetts has one of the weakest Open Meeting Laws in the nation--as individuals do not get fined for (intentional) violations, so they certainly don't have to worry about ever going to jail.

So if a current public official is that timid to hold off on founding a blog because state government has not issued "Blogging and Open Meeting Law for Dummies," then chances are their blog would be boring as Hell and nobody would read it anyway.

The state Open Meeting Law, as toothless as it is, was enacted to ensure public discussion takes place in public; it's the intentional, deliberate circumvention that should concern citizens--not the once in a blue moon unintentional serial discussion where one board member bumps into another at the grocery store and comments about an issue before them and then that member bumps into another at the Dunkin Donuts and regurgitates the brief comments.

But on a blog, EVERYBODY can look over your shoulder and bear witness to the conversation--all of it time date stamped!

I'm glad DeChiara professes to "wholeheartedly supports the ideas and values behind government acting 'in the sunshine'. However, without clear guidelines from the District Attorney, this is not possible."

Hmm...the First Amendment is a Federal Law enacted to prevent government--even lowly town government--from restricting the rights of 'The People and The Press' to voice their opinions. Asking a (state) government agent for "clear guidelines" about free expression is kind of like asking the fox to come up with organizational rules for the henhouse.

And yeah, I kid you not, he even signed off with:

"Michael DeChiara
Shutesbury, MA
An elected public official seeking guidance from my government."

(Although to his credit, he did at least forward a copy to the ACLU--but not to School Committee blogger Catherine Sanderson who is the obvious target of his egotistical ire.)


Anonymous said...

If I lived in Shutesbury, I'd be embarrassed.

Anonymous said...

Prozac sucking primate.

(Feel free to use it).

Anonymous said...

Coming this weekend:

The lazy blogger posts pictures of his daughter eating pizza at the Taste of Amherst.

LarryK4 said...

Funny you should mention that.

On my way out the door at this very moment--but will meet friends at Amherst Brewing Company first (before the pizza).

Anonymous said...

Happy father's day Larry.

LarryK4 said...


Sometimes all it right with the least my little part of it.

S.P. Sullivan said...

It's funny you do this for free and someone has the gall to call you lazy. People sure get entitled on the Internet. Remember when people had to pay for something in order to bitch about the service?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, oldest saying in business is "you get what you pay for."

Anonymous said...

Lately, we don't get much. Your posts are dwindling. Last updated 4 days ago. So much for the "new journalism."

LarryK4 said...

You get what you pay for, Nitwit.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the nitwit. I get paid for my work and my business is still solvent. Try looking in the mirror.

Ed said...

the First Amendment is a Federal Law

No, Larry -- it is part of the CONSTITUTION, and thus takes precedence over all Federal Laws. It also takes precedence over all state laws and municipal ordinances and even UMass regulations...

enacted to prevent government--even lowly town government--from restricting the rights of 'The People and The Press' to voice their opinions.

Jefferson said it better:

"The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. ME 15:491

Remember that the word "Censor" had a different meaning 200 years ago than it does now - then it was more a reference to the duties of the Roman Censors - and hence Thomas Jefforson's classic quote:

"No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter." --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1792. ME 8:406

Ed said...

Asking a (state) government agent for "clear guidelines" about free expression is kind of like asking the fox to come up with organizational rules for the henhouse.

And to bring Jefferson into the 21st Century (the words not in italics are mine, although the newspaper of his era was identical to the blog of today), there is this:

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without blogs or blogs without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should have access to those blogs and be capable of reading them." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. ME 6:57

Anonymous said...

Not exactly. The First Amendment is not a law. The amendments are additional provisions of the Constitution that tell Congress the types of laws it can and cannot create.

The First Amendment is not a law; it is a provision that states that the government can't make a law. In this case any law that would restrict religious freedom.