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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

Valuing Freedom

Wednesday
June 22, 2005

"If the [American] flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents."
-Rep. Jerrold Nadler, NY (D)

The above quote comes from an Associated Press article on the House of Representatives' vote today in favor of a Constitutional Amendment that would give Congress the power to ban desecration of the American flag. While I agree with the Amendment (the flag is a symbol of America itself), which puts me on the other side of the issue from Representative Nadler, the New York Democrat is spot-on correct in commenting that what is really needed is a protection of the individual freedoms that we hold dear. Freedoms which, incrementally, have been chipped away slowly but surely.

Meanwhile, in an effort that J. Edgar Hoover would be proud of, it was revealed earlier this week that the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) collected extensive personal information about airline passengers who flew in June 2004. This happened despite Congress ordering the TSA to not do so, and a promise from the TSA that it wouldn't do it. It was part of a screening program called "Secure Flight".

The idea of keeping our airlines safer is an appealing one. The problem in this case is that the government created a huge database of people, complete with addresses and phone numbers, with privacy concerns completely overlooked. But this is par for the course with the Federal Government.

Meanwhile, President Bush is urging Congress to make the ill-titled Patriot Act permanent. You know, the bill that Congress passed super-fast right after 9/11/2001, when America was still in a state of shock. The bill that pisses all over the Bill of Rights. Consider just some of the horrid things that the Patriot Act allows the government to do to you, RIGHT NOW:

-Search your home without giving you notice before or after (Section 213)
-Collect information on what you read, what you buy, what hotels you stay in, and your medical history (Section 215)
-Track your e-mail activity and web use (Section 216)
-Seize your business and financial records (Section 505)

Feel free to read the whole thing for yourself by clicking here. You'd be better off than some lawmakers who admitted to voting on it without having read it all.

I really mean what I say about all of this. There are no more Democrats or Republicans in Washington, DC. It's Big Government Left and Big Government Right. That's how you have things like the Senate voting 99-1 to raise the FCC's maximum fine limit to a ridiculously high limit, when in fact the FCC doesn't even have a Constitutional right to act as it does in its judge, jury and executioner role. I hope like hell that FOX won't back down, like so many radio groups have done in the past, and will take the Married By America Notice of Apparent Liability (the precursor to an FCC fine) issued against all FOX O&Os and all but one FOX affiliate and fight it all the way to the Supreme Court. This link to the Smoking Gun explains the story, in case you're not savvy to it.

This is the type of thing that the media really should be covering. But just trying pitching that in a morning meeting in a newsroom and see how many blank stares you get back at you. And then someone else can suggest a story about how the local police's crackdown on speeders is "helping to save lives" (taking their propaganda word-for-word, not once questioning that maybe they only say that so they can get more funding and more officers and more power). Then the whole newsroom nods in approval at the government-knows-best story, and the story that requires more than three seconds of thought falls by the wasteside.

You know why I love the internet? Because this is a place where I can actually explain all of this stuff that's going on, where you don't have to turn a story into a 20 second TV speed-read that never goes beyond the surface. And there's no newspaper editor to cut my story off at the legs or to bury me on page 13A. I give you my take, sometimes more serious, like today, and other days lighter, like the Nashville story from two days ago, or my NBA take from yesterday. And as Jonah Malloy used to say on Line of Fire, "That's that with that."


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