DESPOTIC: Democrats wage all-out war on bloggers

Guest post by Rick Manning

The First Amendment is a pesky thing to politicians. It allows, nay encourages, the exact kind of diverse political speech that those in power loathe. Born out of the legacy of the Revolutionary War pamphleteers and their radical thoughts of freedom, today these liberty lovers take the form of citizen journalists utilizing the Internet to push ideas, advocate, report and uncover stories that aren’t being told, afflicting the powerful and holding them accountable. This has been at the heart of press freedom, not the corporate media empires that are often little more than government propaganda machines.

Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), not content to just continue her long running attempt to put a dagger into the right to keep and bear arms, is leading the charge to create a federal government sanctioned journalist licensing system that threatens the First Amendment as well.

Her Orwellian titled “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013”, which is also known as the “media shield bill” has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to gain the votes necessary to get out of the Senate. Proponents of the bill, are advocating that journalists be licensed by the federal government so that they can be protected from potential prosecution from a government insisting that their confidential sources be revealed.

In a scorching legal rebuke to Feinstein, Senators Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and John Cornyn argue vehemently against the law in a Minority View report writing,

“The freedom of the press does not discriminate amongst groups or individuals—it applies to all Americans. As the Supreme Court has long recognized, it was not intended to be limited to an organized industry or professional journalistic elite. See Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 704 (1972) (the ‘‘liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods. Freedom of the press is a fundamental personal right[.]’’); Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, 452 (1938) (‘‘The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. . . . The press in its historic connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.’’).

The Founders recognized that selectively extending the freedom of the press would require the government to decide who was a journalist worthy of protection and who was not, a form of licensure that was no freedom at all. As Justice White observed in Branzburg, administering a privilege for reporters necessitates defining ‘‘those categories of newsmen who qualified for the privilege.’’ 408 U.S. at 704 That inevitably does violence to ‘‘the traditional doctrine that liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photocomposition methods.’’ Id.

The First Amendment was adopted to prevent—not further—the federal government licensing of media. See Lovell, 303 U.S. at 451 (striking an ordinance ‘‘that . . . strikes at the very foundation of the freedom of the press by subjecting it to license and censorship. The struggle for the freedom of the press was primarily directed against the power of the licensor.’’).

But federal government licensing is exactly what the Free Flow of Information Act would create. The bill identifies favored forms of media—‘‘legitimate’’ press—by granting them a special privilege. That selective grant of privilege is inimical to the First Amendment, which promises all citizens the ‘‘freedom of the press.’’ See Branzburg, 408 U.S. at 704 (‘‘Freedom of the press is a fundamental personal right[.]’’) (emphasis added). It also threatens the viability of any other form of press. The specially privileged press will gain easier access to news. That will tip the scales against its competitors and make it beholden to the government for that competitive advantage. A law enacted to protect the press from the state will, in fact, make that press dependent upon the federal government— anything but free.”

Feinstein’s proposed licensing law might seem innocuous if not for the fresh stench of federal government targeting of conservative groups through the IRS, the Federal Communications Commission’s recent attempts to monitor news rooms, the spying on Associated Press reporters by Obama’s Department of Justice to gain access to their sources and most recently, the announced giveaway of First Amendment protections for those who use the Internet by the U.S. Commerce Department all of which serve as recent examples where this Administration has proven their enmity to dissent.

Feinstein’s bill, when coupled with the U.S. government’s attempt to turn the Internet over to international control, represents a turning point in the relationship between the federal government and the free flow of information in the modern world.

Under the Obama Administration’s proposal to give control of the Internet to unspecified international sources, citizen journalists will necessarily lose their First Amendment shield of protection from censorship. A censorship that is likely to first find its form in blocking ideas inimical to the unelected, unaccountable, unknown new Internet governing body’s group think. Ideas that are deemed “dangerous”, “hateful” or “offensive” to some arbiter of worldwide political correctness will disappear from the Internet as Internet Protocol addresses of “offending” parties simply vanish.

Unlicensed political dissent, a critical component to the Web’s democratization of information that scares the elite who cling to power, is equally threatened by Feinstein’s attempt to create a non-protected class of journalists. The local blogger who has a buddy who reveals corruption at City Hall deserves the same right to be able to protect sources as the Washington Post reporter who dutifully regurgitates the latest Obama Administration planned Friday afternoon leak.

The same whistle blower’s identity should be protected whether he or she talks to NetRightDaily.com, TalkingPointsMemo, or the Los Angeles Times.

Failure to convey the same First Amendment protections to all people, whether they are paid or not for their activities, strikes at the heart of the basis of our nation’s most precious freedoms, and Congress should reject the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013.

Read more at Net Right Daily

Doug Ross @ Journal

Lies, Damn Lies, and the Minimum Wage Deception

Guest post by Richard Larsen

Sleight of hand and illusion have their role in the entertainment world; but when the same tactics are employed in the real world, the stakes are much greater, and the intent more dubious. David Copperfield has met his match in fabricated magic and illusionary tactics. For as any illusionist knows, in order to avoid letting the spectator see what’s really going on, you distract the spectator’s attention. And none are better at that than those leading the country today.

With the spectacular flop of the Unaffordable Care Act rollout, the moribund economy, disappointing jobs growth, dramatic widening of the income gap, higher poverty rates than the country has seen in 50 years, and an impotence with world leaders on the global scene, the Magician In Chief reached for his magician’s hat. And what did he pull out in an attempt to distract the nation from his colossal failures? A minimum wage increase! Voila! And now on cue, let us all be impressed! On second thought, let’s not be.

Let’s look at the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on who is affected by the minimum wage. According to the BLS, 3.6 million of our total civilian workforce of 155 million workers are at or below the minimum wage compensation level. That is 2.5% of all workers in the U.S. Comprising that group of minimum wage earners, 31% are teenagers, and 55% are 25 years old or younger. That means that just slightly more than 1% of the total workforce over the age of 25 is earning minimum wage.

Even that 1% over the age of 25 earning minimum wage are not typically the primary breadwinner of an American family. According to BLS data, 63% of workers who earn less than $ 9.50 per hour (remember, the minimum wage is $ 7.25) are the second or third earner within their household. And nearly half of those live in households with earnings over $ 50,000 per year. So not only is the group very small that’s affected by the minimum wage, but the data don’t support the notion that they’re the “working poor.”

This segment of the population has been shrinking over the past thirty years. In 1980, nearly 15% of hourly workers were compensated at the minimum wage level. Considering how moribund the economy has been the past few years, it’s nothing short of remarkable that the total percentage of the workforce now paid at that level is a scant 2.5%.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that raising the minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 10.10 per hour will lift approximately 900,000 people out of poverty. And it will take a few years to do it. But according to the BLS, there are 50 million Americans living in poverty, as defined by the government. That’s less than 2% of those living in poverty that will be elevated beyond that classification. The rest of those in poverty are in the custody of the state. Perhaps they just need a good job.

But the CBO also estimates that there will be a loss of half a million jobs by raising the minimum wage. Keep in mind that their estimates are always lower than reality. Current Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen affirmed the economics behind the CBO projections. “I think almost all economists think that the minimum wage has two main effects,” Yellen said. “One is to boost pay for low-wage workers and the second is that there would be negative impact on employment.” Considering the realities of laws of economics, if we wanted to see more job creation, perhaps the minimum wage should be lowered, especially since most of those who work at that level are (according to BLS data) young people, and not primary wage earners for a household.

For those who venerate peer-reviewed research, here’s an economic feast of data. Joseph J. Sabia and Richard V. Burkhauser in a research piece a few years ago stated, “While reducing poverty among the working poor is a laudable policy goal, the evidence suggests that minimum wage increases have thus far provided little more than symbolic support to this population.”

“Several explanations have been offered for this finding. Card and Krueger (1995) emphasize that minimum wages fail to reduce poverty because many poor Americans do not work. Others have argued that even among the working poor, the relationship between earning a low hourly wage rate and living in poverty is weak and has become weaker over time (Stigler 1946; Burkhauser, Couch, and Glenn 1996; Burkhauser and Sabia 2007).”

“Moreover, even among affected workers, there is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce the employment of low-skilled workers (Neumark and Wascher 2008). While an increase in the minimum wage will lift out of poverty the families of some low-skilled workers who remain employed, other low-skilled workers will lose their jobs or have their hours significantly cut, reducing their income and dropping their families into poverty (Neumark and Wascher 2002; Neumark, Schweitzer, and Wascher 2004, 2005; Sabia 2008).”

Unions are fully supportive of an increase in the minimum wage, but it’s not out of solidarity or altruism for the low-income earner. It’s because they benefit directly. The Center for Union Facts indicates that many unions tie their base-line wages to the minimum wage, which means as it goes up, their coffers benefit.

There is another inconvenient truth that the advocates of raising the minimum wage need to address. Our de facto open border policy has depressed wages. Approximately a million low-skilled workers illegally come into the country every year, driving down wages, especially at the lower end of the spectrum. Harvard economist George Borjas has documented how our immigration policies have reduced American wages by $ 402 billion a year, while increasing profits for employers by $ 437 billion a year.

Once the actual BLS data are examined, and the laws of economics applied, there is little objective reason to increase the minimum wage. The only reason is political. And in an election year, nothing plays better to the uninformed masses than a populist message, especially when it diverts attention so conveniently away from so many other problems created or exacerbated by the administration’s policies.

Read more of Richard Larsen

Doug Ross @ Journal

AWESOME: Union Front Group Got Taxpayer Funds From Department of Labor to Push Minimum Wage Hikes

Guest post by Eric Boehm

The U.S. Department of Labor handed over $ 275,000 in taxpayer-funded grants in 2009 to an organization that claimed to be a charitable nonprofit with tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

But that organization was not officially certified as a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit until 2010, documents show.

The Restaurant Opportunity Center, or ROC-United, a national organization working to raise the minimum wage and improve working conditions for restaurant workers by combing the labor organizing muscle of powerful unions with Occupy Wall Street protest tactics, got the grant anyway.

The group is organizing several high profile events this week to highlight the $ 2.17 national minimum wage for tipped workers.

In the 2009 grant application, ROC United submitted a letter to the Department of Labor that showed the IRS had granted tax exempt status to ROC New York — an affiliated but legally separate organization — even though the $ 275,000 grant would flow to ROC United.

The department was either fooled by the application or didn’t check it closely enough.

Either way, ROC was awarded the grant through the Susan Harwood Grant Program, which is supposed to be limited to 501(c)3 charitable nonprofits, a status not granted to ROC United until June 2010.

“This is also further reason why ROC should not be receiving taxpayer funds. ROC takes taxpayer money, then turns around and lobbies Congress and pushes labor-backed initiatives across the country,” said Mike Paranzino, communications director for ROC Exposed, a political nonprofit that obtained the 2009 grant application via a Freedom of Information request.

Documents obtained by ROC Exposed show that when ROC United applied for the federal grant in August 2009, the group was in the midst of a back-and-forth battle with the IRS over its tax status.

On the application, ROC United claimed to be a “nonprofit with 501(c)3 status.”

But six months later, in February 2010, lawyers representing ROC United were still haggling with the IRS over the organization’s status, and indicated in a letter that the IRS hadn’t granted ROC United official 501(c)3 status.

By that time, the grant records show, federal cash was already flowing to the organization.

A spokesman for the department didn’t respond to a request from Watchdog.org seeking information about the grant application and whether it could be reviewed five years after it was approved. The department also didn’t respond when asked if there could be penalties imposed for grants that were obtained with inaccurate application information.

ROC United didn’t return calls for comment.

When the Labor Department announced the grants in 2009, the award given to ROC United was supposed to “provide training to small restaurant employers” and to develop “local health and safety committees for ongoing workers and employers.” The grant said ROC United would provide training to 50 restaurants and an estimated 2,000 workers in Chicago, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C.

Since 2009, affiliates of ROC United have sprung up in each of those cities.

But training workers on safety issues is hardly the organization’s primary purpose.

Founded after 9/11 to help restaurant workers displaced from their jobs in lower Manhattan, ROC has morphed into a national organization with branches in most major cities. The organization’s goal is “to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce,” according to its website, which brags about ROC’s role in several states’ recent decisions to raise the minimum wage.

The organization has helped organize protests against several restaurant chains and is helping promote protests on Thursday — February 13, a date meant to draw attention to the $ 2.13 per hour wage for tipped workers — around the country.

The group joined U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on Wednesday for a conference call urging an increase to the national minimum wage, and ROC United bragged on its Facebook page about being at the White House for an event focusing on the minimum wage.

The group has slowly gained more influence with the Labor Department since that initial 2009 grant, regardless of whether the grant was obtained properly.

In 2011, the department announced an “alliance” with ROC to promote workplace safety.

Its success has caught the eye of major unions, who see service sector employees as a new frontier in labor organization.

All over America, workers are organizing in all kinds of ways, and they call their unity by all kinds of names — workers’ unions, associations, centers, networks,” said AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka in September, praising ROC United’s executive director Saru Jayaraman for her role in organizing restaurant workers.

While ROC United puts pressure on restaurants to increase wages, Congress might soon put pressure on them.

Two years ago, the House Oversight Committee caught wind of the 2009 grant application and the seemingly inaccurate representation of the group’s tax exempt status.

In a letter to the Labor Department, committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked for information about that questionable 2009 grant and why it was awarded when the organization wasn’t yet recognized by the IRS as a nonprofit.

ROC’s history of intimidation towards opponents and management problems with its own restaurant raises significant questions about why DOL decided to form an alliance with and provide federal funding to the organization,” Issa wrote.

The grant is one of six taxpayer-funded grants ROC has received from the federal government — the other five came from the U.S. Department of Health, federal records show — totaling more than $ 1 million.

Caitlin Carroll, spokeswoman for the House Oversight Committee, said lawmakers and staff are currently reviewing additional materials received from the Labor Department concerning the issues raised in the July 2012 letter.

Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org. Follow @WatchdogOrg and @EricBoehm87 on Twitter for more.

Doug Ross @ Journal

Larwyn’s Linx: Boehner, Rove, and Chamber Wage Big-Moneyed Assault Against Tea Party

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Nation

Boehner, Rove, Chamber Wage Big-Moneyed Assault Against Tea Party: TPNN
Karl Rove’s Crossroads Reloading Against the Tea Party: Tony Lee
The 15 Most Idiotic Things Liberals Said in 2013: Publius

Ted Cruz: 2013 Person of the Year: TPNN
It Sucks to Be Mary Landrieu: AmPower
Nullification vs. Article V Constitutional Convention: Michael Lotfi

Veteran’s scathing letter to Ryan over budget, ‘stolen’ benefits goes viral: BPR
Cowards! Shirkers! Sycophantic Bootlicking Slaves!: Plucking the Yew
Obamacare Contraception Mandate Loses In Federal Court: RWN

Economy

Uh oh: Worst Christmas Retail Numbers Since 2009: TAB
Surprise! Bronze plans may cost a lot more than you expect: Hot Air
Data Firms Hold Files on Millions of Americans: Income, Disease, etc.: PJM

Heh: Obamacare cancels Americorps workers’ health insurance: TAB
$ 26B in tax-hikes later, Deadbeat State is deadbeatier than ever: David Freddoso
Wash. judge strikes part of minimum wage hike measure: USA Today

Scandal Central

Busted Lying Again: NSA Can Decode Your Phone Call and Listen In: Victory Girls
ATF Agent Sends Shockwaves Across Internet With Explosive Fast and Furious Allegations: Blaze
New Jersey Cops Suspended for Serving Their Country?: FNI

Climate & Energy

Last Night, I Hit Rand Simberg’s Tip Jar for $ 10, Because … Science!: R.S. McCain
Warmists Really Hate Allowing “Skeptics” To Give Their Views: Cove
Stock Up Now: January 1 Is Lightbulb Ban: Cowboy Byte

Media

The 10 Best Conservative Columnists of 2013: Dave Swindle
Normalization of Pedophilia Proceeds: Moonbattery
MSNBC’s Klein: How ObamaCare Could Make Insurance Unaffordable for Elderly and Sick: Brad Wilmouth

Top 10 Nice Deb Posts for 2013: Nice Deb
2013 Ratings: Fox News Number One for 12th Straight Year: Don Irvine
Revealing Gaffe on MSNBC About Obama Coverage: Roger Aronoff

Year-End Awards: The Tea Party Terrorists Award: Rich Noyes
Media Matters’ Boehlert: Democrats Don’t Have Money: Elisha Krauss
GLAAD issues statement on Phil Robertson’s return to ‘Duck Dynasty’: Twitchy

World

The Chinese Dragon Flexes Its Military Muscle: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
Sharia’s Protector: Mark Steyn
The End of Erdogan’s Cave of Wonders: An I-Told-You-So: Spengler

Superpowers Making Strategic Moves In Africa: RWN
Obama’s Vacation Unleashed (Cartoon): RWN
John Kerry meets Snoop Dogg — Beclownment Occurs: DC

Sci-Tech (courtesy BadBlue Tech News)

The Digital Enterprise: Frank Diana
Project of the Month: An Autonomous Lawn Mower: Ian Chant, PopSci
Infographic: The pros and cons of working at a startup: VenBeat

Cornucopia

If You Duck This Holiday Season, Please Duck Responsibility.: MOTUS
M11 Christmas Eve crash driver has ‘incredible escape’: BBC
Little Red Phony: iOTW

Image: Sign at butcher shop – @SaintRPH
Today’s Larwyn’s Linx sponsored by: Matt Bevin for U.S. Senate

QOTD: “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.” —Judge Richard Leon on the NSA’s Sweeping Data Collection Program

Doug Ross @ Journal