Patterico's Pontifications


Beldar on the Online Petition

Filed under: Civil Liberties — Patterico @ 3:58 pm

Beldar e-mails to say that he tried to leave the following comment on this post below, regarding my decision not to sign the online petition opposing FEC regulation of blogs :

I almost decided not to sign on for the same reasons you express, Patterico, and I certainly respect your decision. I too wish that Congress would change the statute and that the Supremes would change their precedent upholding it. Ultimately, however, I focused on the target of this petition, the FEC, which doesn’t have the power to do either. Rather, it has some sort of mandate from Congress that, for now, the courts have refused to hold unconstitutional. So the FEC will be regulating some things, and at a minimum, it will be regulating paid political advertising on the internet. I decided that I could and should urge the FEC not to push things farther in the “wrong” direction, notwithstanding my frustrations with Congress and the Supremes.

I respect Beldar and dozens of other bloggers who have signed the petition. I just have an honest disagreement with them about how to address this issue.

As I explained in my previous post, I don’t think citizens should ever ask their government for permission to engage in political speech.

If a guy breaks into your home, are you going to politely ask him to consider staying out of your favorite room? Or are you going to tell him to get the hell out of your house, and shoot him if he refuses?

As Americans, free political speech is our house. Blogs may be our favorite room, but others will have their own favorite rooms. The government has no right to be in the house, period.

I want government out — now. And if it won’t get out, we need to make sure we have some way to force it out.

I don’t intend to ask politely. Just get out. Now.

P.S. Beldar is the second person in as many days to say he had a problem leaving a comment. If you are having such a problem, make sure JavaScript is enabled on your browser. If you still have a problem, e-mail me at patterico -AT- patterico -DOT- com.

20 Responses to “Beldar on the Online Petition”

  1. […] xemption recognizes the validity of the law in the first place.” That is why I have argued against signing the online petition asking our masters to grant us per […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » “Reassuring” Remarks on FEC Regulation That Should Deeply Trouble You (0c6a63)

  2. […] f political speech on the Internet is something to be fought. But how? I have repeatedly argued that asking the FEC for a media exemption is nothing more than asking […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » What To Do About the Tyranny of Government Regulation of Speech (0c6a63)

  3. Patterico wrote:

    If a guy breaks into your home, are you going to politely ask him to consider staying out of your favorite room? Or are you going to tell him to get the hell out of your house, and shoot him if he refuses?

    Bad example, Pat. Let’s make it more relevant: a squadron of soldiers from the 1 Marines takes over your house. Do you:

    (a) Politely ask them to leave;

    (b) Go to court to force them out under the Third Amendment;

    (c) Tell them to get the hell out of your house and shoot them if they refuse?

    My choice is (b). If (b) fails, I’m not sure what my next step would be… but I’m pretty damned sure what it would NOT be, and that is choice (c).

    Committing flamboyant suicide isn’t going to get those soldiers out of your house (or even make them feel bad about it); and committing flamboyant political suicide isn’t going to overturn the BCRA.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  4. I love it. (c) (lowercase c inside parentheses) becomes the copyright symbol! I didn’t try (C) (uppercase C); wonder if that does the same?

    And it doesn’t show up that way in the preview. Feh.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  5. Dafydd’s comment is much more the type of response I expected when I put up my post yesterday. I was actually surprised at the support I did get.

    Dafydd, my analogy was of course a rough one. To make it more exact, we’d have to envision the following scenario: some soldiers have trouble finding lodging. So a law is passed, spearheaded by McCain and Feingold, that says soldiers can be quartered anywhere they damn well please. Some crazy civil libertarians oppose the law on the ground that it would violate the Third Amendment, but the NYT editorial page says we have a real problem with soldiers finding housing, and soldiers will never decide to house themselves in private residences anyway. They will go in commercial buildings only. Probably hotels. With the blessing of the NYT, the squishes on the Supreme Court go along.

    Now, some general starts talking about which residences his soldiers are going to be quartered in. There is an outcry, and McCain and Feingold say: the outcry is ridiculous. Of course soldiers are not going to be quartered in houses. That’s scaremongering by the people who don’t want our soldiers quartered anywhere.

    Meanwhile, the generals are saying it may end up being residences . . . we’ll just have to see how much hotel space is available, you know.

    How do you oppose this? You can’t go to court. The Supreme Court already upheld the law.

    Are you going to write a letter to your congressman saying, well, if you guys are really going to violate the Third Amendment and quarter yourselves in houses, would you mind not doing it in mine?

    Or are you going to re-read your copy of the Third Amendment, and start loading your gun?

    Patterico (977811)

  6. That’s a bit of hyperbole, of course. In reality, I would probably call a press conference and make them drag me out by force in front of the TV cameras. I certainly wouldn’t write a letter asking for an exemption.

    Patterico (977811)

  7. Dafydd: I agree wholeheartedely about that buglike copyright “feature” of WordPress. Unfortunately, my complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

    The rest of my response is too long to belong in a comment. I’ll blog it soon instead.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  8. Looking forward to it. I assume you disagree.

    Patterico (977811)

  9. I certainly agree with you, that we shouldn’t just ask politely; but when your ISP is served with a court order, shutting your site down, what are you planning to do about it?

    You won’t have a platform to shout from. And there’s no point in loading up your guns, there’s nobody to shoot in cyberspace. You’ll just be gagged and forgotten, and it won’t take a platoon to do it.

    I guess then you’ll write a nasty letter to the local newspaper. Yeah, that’ll work.-sigh-

    Denis Wauchope (42d25c)

  10. Or are you going to re-read your copy of the Third Amendment, and start loading your gun?

    Patterico, the answer is “none of the above.” I would find a creative and effective way to fight it. It is cowardly simply to give in to tyranny; but it’s insanity to throw your life away in an imbecilic gesture of petty defiance.

    In the actual case at hand, the first step is to convince the FEC not to push the limits of liberty by regulating blogs out of existence. We need those voices to organize and inform.

    The next step is to find an intelligent way to persuade enough representatives and senators to overturn the law that created this monstrosity in the first place. But politics is played with money, not manifestos; not in this country. The first task is to find out how many guys you have in your corner, how many are active enemies, and how many are neutral and persuadable.

    Next, you must divide the persuadables into those who can be swayed by the principles and those who must be bribed (legally bribed, I mean: you vote to overturn BCRA and I’ll vote for a hydroelectric program in your district). Now do a realistic head count… are you there yet? Are you within striking distance?

    The worst thing you can do is launch a major offensive against the BCRA — and lose. All that will do is strengthen the pro-McCain forces, as all the lemmings will decide that’s the winning side and rush to join it. If I may quote Niccolo Machiavelli, “if you strike at the king, you must slay him.”

    In any event, there are folks who do this for a living and do it very well. The absolute best thing any of us can do to overturn McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan is to identify those folks who know what they’re doing and are trying to restore freedom of speech — and start donating money to them.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  11. Patterico, I summon your attention to the magnificent story of Shahrazad.

    And while you ponder that, I shall tell you a most excellent tale of the Sufi sage, mystic, and general irritant Nasrudin.

    Mullah Nasrudin, it is said by the wise, was adept above all things at getting under the skin of people in power, usually by telling them what they most didn’t want to hear. He did so again in Constantinople in the fifth year of the reign of the local Sultan. So much an irritant he became that the Sultan had him seized, stripped to his loincloth, his turban unwound, and threw him into the dungeon, along with his young apprentice. And his little dog Toto, too.

    “Enjoy the night,” said the Sultan; “sleep well, for tomorrow’s sunrise shall find you flogged, flayed, and beheaded.”

    Nasrudin settled himself to meditate, but the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth by his apprentice kept him awake. At midnight, Nasrudin summoned the captain of the guard, who answered the call in deference to the former rank of the mullah. “What do you want, wretch?” said the captain.

    “I wish a message sent to the sultan.” Nasrudin sighed heavily. “This is not a gift I bestow freely… but if the sultan, may he live forever and a day, will consent to allow me but a single year’s life right here in this tiny cell before the flogging, the flaying, and the beheading, then I shall instruct the sultan’s most noble steed in the art of flying. He shall be the only Oriental potentate with a flying horse.”

    The guard stared; he thought to laugh, but then, strange tales were told of the powers of Mullah Nasrudin. He carried the offer, and within the hour, conveyed the enthusiastic response: Nasrudin and his apprentice would live for a year and a day but remain imprisoned. At that time, whether the horse could fly or not, the original sentence would be carried out.

    “But master,” sobbed the apprentice, when the guard had left; “you have no knowledge of such dark magic! And what will it gain us, one more year of such a wretched, hellish life? We shall be executed in any event!”

    Again, Nasrudin settled back, seeking his meditative calm. “A lot can happen in a year,” he said; “the sultan could die — may he live forever and two days! There could be a revolution. The heart of the sultan may soften, or maybe he shall grow bored without my company.”

    Nasrudin suddenly opened his eyes. “And who knows, young one? If all else fails, perhaps that damned horse can learn to fly after all!”

    I hope my point is clarity itself, Patterico. Let’s stay alive and unsilenced, and who knows? Perhaps John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O’Connor can learn to fly after all.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  12. Whatever rulemaking transpires, the FEC is still just another bureaucracy, with all the failings bureaucracies have. They want a slow steady amount of work and they often like to throw their weight around. What they don’t like is uncertainty and above all they don’t want to be inundated with work with legal dedlines for completion or enforcement.

    If there is any language in their rulemaking for the internet that limits in kind contributions or linking to candidates’ websites, they will be so swamped that they won’t even be able to sort it, much less act on it. This plays to our strength which is numbers.

    Perhaps we should give the FEC a taste of what the future may hold. Aside from e-mailing our senators and representatives, we should be sending our thoughts to each of the FEC Commissioners. They will realize the difficulties our numbers present to their enforcement procedures.

    I still think political discourse on the internet is an inalienable right, especially at election time. But wars are not won by fighting only on a single front.

    Corky Boyd
    Sanibel FL

    Corky Boyd (4215fa)

  13. If there is any language in their rulemaking for the internet that limits in kind contributions or linking to candidates’ websites, they will be so swamped that they won’t even be able to sort it, much less act on it. This plays to our strength which is numbers.

    Or maybe they will just enforce the law against a few? Maybe the few that they don’t like?

    Many cheat on their taxes. Few can be audited. Does that bother the IRS? No. They audit the worst tax dodgers — you know: Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Gennifer Flowers . . .

    Patterico (977811)

  14.       Patterico, I’m prepared to go to jail over this — but I’d really rather not.

          I will fight this on every front available.  I signed the petition, I’ll work to throw McCain and Feingold out of the Senate, and I’ll try to persuade people of the unconstitutionality of all this.

          I see no reason to eschew any available weapon.


    Stephen M. St. Onge (15e0d0)

  15. Welcome to the life that the Second Amendment folks have been living for years! Don’t like it? It’s un-Constitutional? So?!

    What are you going to do, take up arms? Let me introduce you to David Koresh and the Republic of Texas crew. Good luck.

    It HAS to be a political fight. But there is yet hope. Bad Supreme Court decisions have been overturned. Power-mad Senators have been thrown out. We must all be clear and demanding in communicating with our representatives in the government. I prefer that to a bloodbath.

    Ranten.N.Raven (629ae8)

  16. Dafydd,

    While your parable is emminently reasonable, reason is best employed in dealing with the reasonable. There are several questions that need answering still:

    1) Are the forces seeking to curb our rights to speak freely reasonable? Or are they simply seeking to, against all reason, maintain their privileged positions resulting from our shared freedoms? (After all, is it reasonable to believe that if they trim significantly freedom to speak that they will continue to be able to speak themselves? History shows that this sort of mostion tends to rebound on those promoting it.)

    2) Is yours the response chosen by our forefathers who brought this great experiment into existence and who asserted that there are times when the Tree of Liberty must be manured with the blood of patriots and tyrants? Is it the response we expect to see from Iraquis? Ukrainians? Lebanese?

    I’ve signed the petition. I believe reasonable measures are worth attempting. I have no issue with those who take the Adams approach as opposed to the Franklin one. There is a place for both if we seek to establish that we are serious.

    At this stage this may be a threat of only tyranny light, but the burden of tyranny never decreases on its own. And it gets heavier fast as it rolls downhill towards that dungeon.

    But I do question whether any such regulation would even be enforceable. Some would consider it their patriotic duty (as indeed it would be!) to trample any such unconstitutional regulation. Short of disconnecting the US from the global internet there just isn’t any way to enforce strictures against blogs. Not at the present time with the present technology. It’s better to have it out now before that technology might exist.

    Dan S (d281eb)

  17. Dan S, you misunderstand. The parable is not about reason, it’s about temporizing until a solution is possible. If Nasrudin does nothing, he dies on the morrow; so at least he takes action to stay alive long enough to find a way to get out of his predicament.

    In Patterico’s case, as evidently in yours, you suggest an action that is not just counterproductive but preposterous on its face. “The blood of patriots and tyrants”… which tyrants would that be? Whose blood, exactly, do you suggest we spill? And how do you go about doing it — an armed march on the FEC building in Washington, or perhaps an armed assault on the Capitol?

    Oh yes, that will solve our problems. No downside there!

    (I suspect, however, that your blood will not be part of the “blood of patriots” half of that sentence fragment you quote; you’ve already contributed your share by issuing the clarion call for others to go carry out an armed assault upon the federales.)

    My point is that this is nonsense, and you any anyone else calling for armed resistance don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. If the feds began rounding up dissidents and shipping them off to labor camps, then sure, you might well get enough of an uprising to throw the tyrants out. But how many people do you really think will literally grab their rifles and muster in the District of Columbia, taking up arms to support the freedom to blog?

    Admitting you cannot overthrow the United States government by force and violence over new FEC regulations is the first step to recovery. The next step is to get serious, join the national conversation, and come up with rational and plausible solutions to what we all agree is an egregious violation of freedom of speech. You know, something that might actually work.

    Got any ideas?


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  18. Dafydd,

    I’m not sure you read all my comments. I said I was engaging in hyperbole. I don’t know precisely what I’d do, but my best guess is the one I mentioned above: blog the way I want to, and if I get in trouble with the FEC, make sure my arrest happens in front of the TV cameras.

    Patterico (756436)

  19. Dafydd’s parable is the upside to the saying “justice delayed is justice denied.” For exactly the same reason, sometimes an injustice delayed is also an injustice denied.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  20. Dafydd,

    I may have misunderstood you, but you’re deliberately misreading me, or appear to be.

    I said I signed the petition. Real name and all (and Scheltema is not a common name, so no anonymity for me). I am on record as supporting the officially approved process for changing law (bad or good).

    But there is a point where a process ceases to function as intended and it must be remade. I think that we need to put our leaders on notice that they are moving in that direction and we do not approve. They either listen and edge back the other direction, or they are on notice that we will not simply allow ourselves to be herded into the chute that leads to the path down.

    Tyranny of the masses is as much tyranny as is the tyranny of a dictator. And there is an edging towards tyranny when the stated intent of the regulation is to curb political speech. I did not point at any tyrant. My statement, as yours, was aimed towards a general philosophical position. Yours seemed(and seems) to be: wait, do what you need to survive, and see what tomorrow will bring. It struck me as odd and thus I replied, because I read you here and there (Powerline often in the comments) and it seemed off tune.

    My point is that if the position you seem to espouse had been the consensus among the founders, we would still be a British colony.

    I’m not saying that you’re advocating doing nothing, but the parable that you chose suggests appeasement and “going along.”

    Just because I quote Jefferson does not mean I am calling for violence. Nor did I make any statement that the time for violence was now. I was pointing out the difference in position, attitude, from what he, or Paine, or Adams, said 200+ years ago to what you offered in your parable. “Blood” can be both physical and metaphorical, and in this case the blood (I would pray) is most likely political (a la Daschle).

    Your parenthetical is beneath you. You don’t know me, nor what I would or would not do if the situation required it. That remark smacks of the chickenhawk logic we see far too much on the left. On that one I say “shame!”

    I really do mean to ask you to explain your logic, however. If it’s simply that we have not yet exhausted all legal recourse, well, that isn’t exactly the message of that story. I agree (and have said so) that we have not exhausted the means available within the system. That is certainly the proper first step. The mullah in your parable HAD exhausted legal means. He was condemned.

    The position that we have not yet exhausted all legal means is not the same as “well, let’s stall and see if anything happens to improve thigs or if we can figure something out.” That’s the sort of message that leads those who would dominate us (just because the can) to believe that they will succeed, and to act accordingly.

    What’s needed is something different. Something like a calm gaze into their eyes that says “I’m watching, and I won’t stand for shenanigans. Get back in line now!”

    Basically I’ve reacted to what strikes me as a very bad choice of analogy. Patterico’s was flawed too, and he’s refined it.

    My suggested first recourse if they do not back down is NOT violence, it’s civil disobedience. They cannot enforce regulations of the sort they are suggesting if we choose to not comply. I argue that we have a duty to not comply according to the Constitution. Now, if they amend the Constitution… then I would have a real dilemma.

    Dan S (d281eb)

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