Patterico's Pontifications


#Weinergate: Mike Stack Is Threatened

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:42 pm

It happened over a week ago, but we have been holding onto it for reasons I hope to be able to explain soon. Mike Stack, aka “goatsred” from the Dan Wolfe #bornfreecrew, has now authorized me to release this:

Just to be clear: the e-mail was sent to Stack. The e-mailer used “goatsred” (his Twitter moniker) in their Hushmail address to mock him.

More information regarding other criminal activity when I am allowed to publish it. You haven’t heard the worst of it yet.

Breaking: Blagojevich Convicted

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 12:20 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

The Other McCain reports that he has been convicted on 17 counts.  The links he has aren’t working for me, but when I can get some details, I will provide them.

Update: Now the link is working.  Here’s a few paragraphs, as a taste:

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty Monday of 17 out of 20 federal corruption charges — including all charges tied to allegations that the Chicago Democrat tried to trade an appointment to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.

Blagojevich had his hands clasped as he listened to the guilty verdicts read aloud in court, then leaned back into his chair as he heard all the guilty determinations.

His wife, Patti Blagojevich, began crying before the verdicts were even read. As each “guilty” was read, she sank into her brother’s shoulder.

Read the whole thing.

Update: For those keeping track, that means he was found not guilty of one count, and the jury was hung on two other counts.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Just a Helpful Reminder: Today’s First Amendment Victory Came Because Corporations Are Allowed to Speak Freely

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 12:12 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

You know that decision in the Supreme Court today?  Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association?  You know, the one that struck down that law restricting sales of violent video games?

That wouldn’t have been possible unless the Supreme Court held that so-called corporate speech was protected under the First Amendment, too.

Now a lot people think that the Supreme Court ruled that way for the first time in Citizens United.  In fact they had been ruling that way for years.  Many of the most importance cases involving Corporations: New York Times Company v. Sullivan (landmark defamation case), and Hustler Magazine, Incorporated v. Falwell (featured in the movie, The People v. Larry Flynt, although the title is a misnomer).  Each of those decisions affirmed the vitality of freedom of speech, and each of them could have been decided much more simply if they said, “well, you’re a corporation, therefore you have no free speech rights, therefore you lose.”

Likewise, I don’t believe I have played a game in the last 25 years that was made by one guy; they are always made by corporations: Activision, Rock Star, and EA Games.  So those who wanted to claim that once people associated into a corporation, that they were stripped of all speech protection, should would have allowed the court to say, in this case, “this law is unconstitutional as it applies to humans, but valid as it applies to corporations.”  And since it appears to be practically impossible for modern gaming to be created without a corporation (or at least some kind of collective action), the practical effect of such a ruling would be to make all gaming subject to the whims of the legislature.

So next time a liberal complains about Citizens United giving corporations the right to speak, ask them if they like video games.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Breaking: Supremes Strike Down Violent Video Game Law (Update: Video Games are Protected Under the First Amendment) (Update: Custer Gets His Revenge!)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:22 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Just heard via Scotusblog which likes to live blog when they release their opinions.  I will share details as I learn of them.

Update: Here’s the opinion.  Scalia wrote the majority opinion, which isn’t too surprising, because he is pretty bully on freedom of expression.  Interestingly Thomas, who agrees with Scalia a very large percent of the time, dissents.  And I don’t want to imply that Thomas simply apes Scalia.  In fact on at least two occasions it appears that Scalia and Thomas disagreed, but eventually Scalia came over to his way of thinking.  The first was on the subject of cross burning, and the second was on the need in criminal cases to prove every sentence enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mind you, I have not had a chance to read any of it yet.  Which I will now do.

Update: Also, I previously posted on the case, here.

Update: I am not going to live blog reading the opinion, but this line is very significant:

California correctly acknowledges that video games qualify for First Amendment protection. The Free Speech Clause exists principally to protect discourse on public matters, but we have long recognized that  it  is  difficult  to distinguish politics from entertainment, and dangerous to  try.  “Everyone is familiar with instances of propaganda  through fiction.  What is one man’s amusement, teaches another’s doctrine.”  Winters v.  New York,  333 U. S. 507, 510 (1948).  Like  the  protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through  many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to  the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world).  That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.

If memory serves, many lower courts recognized that video games were a form of expression, but I don’t believe the Supreme Court has ever said so before.   I particularly appreciate how he understands that even the way the players interact with their world can be expressive.

Update: Some notes from Scalia’s opinion.

Scalia takes a few shots at his colleagues in the footnotes.  In footnote 1, he writes:

JUSTICE ALITO distinguishes Stevens on several grounds that seem to us ill founded.  He suggests,…that Stevens did not apply strict scrutiny.  If that is so (and we doubt it), it would make this an a fortiori case.  He says, … that the California Act punishes the  sale or  rental rather than the “creation” or  “possession” of violent depictions.   That distinction appears nowhere in  Stevens itself, and for good reason: It would make permissible the prohibition of printing or selling books—though not the writing of them.  Whether government regulation applies to creating, distributing, or consuming  speech makes no difference.

Which sounds right to me.  I mean that is the dodge they tried on Citizens United, which I took apart by saying:

“But wait,” I hear you say, “didn’t all those news stories say this was about campaign expenditures?” Well, this is where the media has been incredibly disingenuous on this topic. The FEC said that they could not purchase advertising. So you can judge for yourself whether this sounds more like a mere restriction on spending, or a restriction on freedom of expression.

Meanwhile he gets a little harsh on Thomas in footnote 3:

JUSTICE  THOMAS ignores the holding of  Erznoznik, and  denies that persons under 18 have any constitutional right to speak or be spoken to without their parents’ consent.   He cites no case, state or federal, supporting this view, and to our knowledge there is none.

For judges that is pretty harsh and it goes on in some detail.

And Scalia gives us some of the phrasing he is famous for:

Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore.  Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed.  As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White,  the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers “till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.”  … Cinderella’s evil  stepsisters have their eyes pecked out  by doves.   … And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.  …

And there is a fun walk down memory lane at the terror of other new technology turning our kids to crime, dated at the turn of the 20th Century.  Everything old is new again, I suppose.

And I like how he disposed of the interactivity argument:

California claims that video games present special problems because they are “interactive,” in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines  its outcome. …  As  for the argument that video games enable participation in the violent action, that seems to us more a matter of degree than of kind.  As Judge Posner has observed, all literature is interactive.   “[T]he better it is, the more interactive.  Literature when it is successful draws the  reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader’s own.

And this amuses me:

JUSTICE  ALITO has done considerable independent research to identify, … video games in which “the violence is astounding[.]”

Which raises the question, if video game violence warps people’s minds, then what has he just done to himself?  Meanwhile, on pages 12 and 13, he tears apart the psychological evidence, and then declares that the law is a joke in his mind because all that is needed is a parent’s (or uncle’s) consent:

The California Legislature is perfectly willing to leave this dangerous, mind-altering material in the handsof children so long as one parent (or even an aunt or uncle) says it’s OK.  And there are not even any requirements as to how this parental  or avuncular relationship is to  be verified; apparently the child’s or putative parent’s, aunt’s, or uncle’s say-so suffices.  That is not how one addresses a  serious social problem.

That isn’t just a policy criticism, but then it means that the law suffers from being under-inclusive.

And on page 15, he argues that the law is not necessary anyway because of voluntary ratings.

Otherwise, its pretty direct “free speech beats public panic” stuff.  Not a bad opinion but there is a certain been-there-done-that to the proceedings.

Please note, by the way, that this is the fully-joined opinion of five of the justices.  Two concur, and two dissent.  Expect more updates as I work through the other opinions.

Update: I read through Alito’s opinion.  He considers this law to be impermissibly vague (something I mentioned in my previous post on the subject), but wants to encourage legislatures to try narrower laws.  Indeed, much of the opinion seems to be directly written in order to teach legislatures how to write laws he is more likely to uphold.  And in doing so, he gets all living constitution about it:

I disagree, however, with the approach taken in the Court’s  opinion.   In considering the application of unchanging constitutional principles to new and rapidly evolving technology, this Court should proceed with caution.  We should make every effort to understand the new  technology.  We should take  into account the possibility that developing technology  may have important societal implications that will become apparent only with time. We should not jump to the conclusion that new technology is fundamentally the same as some older thing with which we are familiar.

And for extra fun, on page 15, the infamous Custer’s Revenge is mentioned.  Alito writes about it “in another [game], the goal is to rape Native American women[.]”

Of course it might be useful to actually see what he is upset about.  Now, I have video of this game in action, but you have to be very careful and suppress any rapey desires.  I’ll even put it below the fold because it is so shocking…


“Three Muslim Males Walk Into MEPS Building, Seattle, Washington, And Gun Down Everybody.”

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:11 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

That is, fortunately, not a true headline, but the imagined headline of two brain surgeons (note: sarcasm) who were arrested before they could carry out a massacre:

Two ex-convicts planned an attack on a Seattle military recruiting station hoping that it would get attention from the media, authorities say, and even imagined the headlines: “Three Muslim Males Walk Into MEPS Building, Seattle, Washington, And Gun Down Everybody.”

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph Anthony Davis, 33, of Seattle, was arrested Wednesday when he and another man showed up at a warehouse garage to pick up machine guns they planned to use in the attack, authorities said Thursday. The weapons had been rendered inoperable by federal agents and posed no risk to the public.

Authorities learned of the plot this month when a third person recruited to participate alerted Seattle police, according to court documents. Agents then set up the sting through the confidential informant, who had known Abdul-Latif for years.

And reading that story, I thought to myself, “like as if that would be the headline.”  I mean of course no news paper would say “and gun down everybody”—they would more generically (and accurately) refer to it as a massacre, or say “X persons killed by gunmen” and so on. But the really incorrect claim is that their faith would be mentioned in the headline.  The media is positively reticent when it comes to mentioning the religion of such killers and attempted killers, in the middle of a war against an enemy that explicitly states that it is motivated by the Islamic faith.

As James Taranto wrote recently about the man who created a bomb scare at the Pentagon:

We learn from the CBS story that Melaku is a lance corporal in the Marine Reserves. The Associated Press adds that he is a naturalized American citizen, originally from Ethiopia. CBS also reports that “Melaku was carrying a notebook that contained the phrases ‘al Qaeda,’ ‘Taliban rules’ and ‘Mujahid defeated croatian forces’ when he was detained,” but “that the suspect is not thought to have been involved in a terrorist act or plot.”

All of which raises an obvious question–but one that goes unanswered in the reports from CBS and AP, as well as others from ABC News and the Washington Post. We could only find one news organization that had the answer: Fox News Channel, which reports that Maliku is Muslim.

Now, it’s possible that Fox simply got a scoop here, but our guess is that this fact was omitted from the other reports because of the politically correct taboo against making a connection between Islam and terrorism. It’s analogous to the case we cited Monday in which the Chicago Tribune refused to mention the race of the members of “groups of youths” who had been attacking people in a downtown neighborhood, but it’s worse. Whereas race is not necessarily relevant to the motive of the Chicago attacks, religion almost always is when a Muslim commits an act of terrorism or a related crime.

Do I have to tell you to read the whole thing?

James Taranto argues that part of the motivation is so that non-Muslims don’t conclude that all Muslims are terrorists or something like that.  And that is surely right, but incomplete.  Surely they are also concerned about making Muslims feel they are being stereotyped.  But the fact that our media goes to such great lengths to avoid even mentioning a person’s religion when talking about terrorism motivated by a breed of Islam and yet these knuckleheads still thought the headlines would mention their faith, leads you to question how effective it all is.

Hey guys, why don’t you just report the news and let us make up our own minds?

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

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