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On Anonymity And The Exchange Of Ideas.

A couple of events happened this week to cause us to re-think or rather re-examine our belief in not only trying to remain anonymous here at Raised on Hoecakes, but whether to allow commenters to post without using their “real” name.

We got a letter from a reader who said they did not have the “bravery” to comment or use their own name. For a citizen to feel that way is troubling on so many levels we don’t know how to address it. Why should anyone fear or be worried about what they say? Why should their ideas and thoughts remain trapped behind what seems to be a shield against the tip of the government spear?

The fact that this fear exists in the city shows we have a long way to go on many fronts. We should encourage and support those who want to speak up no matter what.

Allowing a person to post here anonymously gives them a voice they may not have had or exercised otherwise. It is going to be very difficult to convince us that creating an atmosphere here at Raised on Hoecakes where people can speak anonymously is a bad thing.

We just aren’t buying it.

The other general complaint is that not “signing your name” is somehow a cowardly or “childish” thing to do. We have addressed this before many times and don’t want to beat a dead horse, but it hard to label the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution as “cowards” or “childish.”

In our book, that is “oh fer two” against anonymous speech in the political arena.

But something has been tickling our brain on anonymous speech as well. We never could put our finger on it. It seemed to always be out of our intellectual grasp.

Well, out of our grasp until the Budget Workshop meeting of Thursday, August 23, 2012. As Council members were going though the budget looking at the individual items, Councilwoman Denan came to money allocated for laptops for the City Council.

She wanted to eliminate the funds.
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The Omler Letter.

A letter to the editor from Satellite Beach resident David Omler appeared in the Florida Today newspaper on August 4, 2012. Given the discussions we have had concerning signs, free speech and political speech we have had here on Raised on Hoecakes, we believe the letter is quite relevant.

First, the letter:

Beware, good citizens of Satellite Beach, there are evil things lurking in the night willing to steal your First Amendment Right to free speech.

The following was reported to the Satellite Beach Police Department. In the early morning hours last Friday, there was the theft of a sign from my front yard reading “Recall Sheryl Denan.” I have no proof of anyone who may have done this.

This all appears to be another attempt to silence those who oppose this city council. Such as our longtime City manager retiring (resigning) after being told his job performance review would be based on his ability to silence those who oppose this council.

And then we had Councilwoman Denan wanting to move public comments to the end of meetings based on her “maternal instincts” to protect the other member of the Council.

This past election caused a schism within the city, and their actions have only widened it.

David Omler
Satellite Beach

We had been contacted by Mr. Omler in regards to the theft of his signs prior to the publishing of the letter to the editor. His plight led to our post “Stifling Speech Through Theft” of July 28, 2012.

As citizens, we should all decry the theft of a person’s belongings that are on private property. We would hope we can call agree on that. No matter how much we disagree with someone’s sign, it is un-American to steal it to stifle the exchange of ideas. The thief who stole Mr. Omler’s sign only proved that they were unable to counter his point. That is all there is to it.

We neither agree nor disagree with Mr. Omler’s idea of impeaching Scott Rhodes or initiating a recall effort for Sheryl Denan. To be honest with you, we haven’t given it that much thought. But even if we opposed his efforts, we would not want the discussion to take place. We would not want to deprive the discourse of his ideas by stealing a sign from his private property.

It’s wrong.

Morally and legally, stealing signs with which one disagrees is wrong. If there is nothing else that we can agree on as a community, it should be that.

However, there is another, far reaching event that took place in the city concerning “signs” in general, an “IMPEACH SCOTT RHODES” sign in particular, Mr. Omler, and another citizen, Mr, William Speigelhalter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We want to make clear that the names and events we are about to discuss are all in the public record. We are not breaking the trust of anyone that contacts us or wishes to remain anonymous.

On Friday, July 13, 2012, Councilwoman Sheryl Denan emailed Satellite Beach Police Chief Jeff Pearson concerning a “possible trespass” on the grounds of DeLaura Middle School. As “proof” of the incident, Denan sent a copy of a picture of a sign reading “IMPEACH RHODES” in a planting area on school grounds.

Six days later, the complaint was assigned to Sergeant Frost of the Satellite Beach Police Department. We haven’t asked, but we suspect the delay in assigning someone to this was that Chief Pearson knew the Council meeting of July 18, 2012 had as an agenda item “political signs” in general. That agenda item was in response to a query which had been made by Councilwoman Denan to Interim City Manager Ayn Samuelson on July 11, 2012 specifically referencing the “IMPEACH RHODES” signs. In addition, the delay gave Chief Pearson some time to informally speak with other department heads such as John Stone, head of the Code Enforcement Department.

(We want to be clear that we are not ascribing any nefarious motives to the Chief of Police or Code Enforcement. In a small town such as Satellite Beach, it is often the better course of action to handle things like this through casual conversations.)
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Another Attack On Free Speech. This Time The Culprits Are New York Republicans.

Back in October of 2011, we took note of a report issued by New York Democrats in which Constitutionally protected free speech was labeled a “privilege” and not a “right.”

The report centered on internet comments. The Democrats wanted the ability to demand web administrators take down posts and comments that were deemed by someone to be flaming, trolling and a variety of other things that were “hurtful.”

One would think that every right thinking, Constitution loving believer of freedom would tell the Democrats to go pound sand.

However, such thought processes managed to skip New York Republicans (twenty-three of the forty-nine New York Assembly Republicans, plus one Independent and one Democrat to be precise) who have actually introduced a bill to require site administrators to remove posts and comments made by anonymous contributors when asked to do so.

The bill is being touted as an “anti-cyberbullying” measure by the sponsor:

“While the Internet is a wonderful resource for social networking, sadly it can also used to anonymously bring harm to others,” said [Assemblyman Dean] Murray [(R,C-East Patchogue)]. “My legislation addresses the dangers of cyberbullying and protects the victims of this offense. By demanding these online abusers come out from anonymity and identify themselves, they will hopefully think twice before posting harmful comments about others.”

Even if the anonymous postings were “cyber bullying,” there is no Constitutional provision for the government to stop such speech. Even worse is the bill clearly does not limit the measure to “cyber-bullying” type posts and comments:
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Fundamental Change and Fundamental Hypocrisy – Part One.

Imagine if we were to tell you there is a move afoot to change the Constitution. Would that get your attention?

What if we were to tell you there is a move to attack your First and Fourteenth Amendment rights? Do we have your attention now?

What if we were to inform you there is a Constitutional Amendment proposing the end of free speech, free association and freedom of the press? Are you awake?

Representative James P. McGovern (D-Massachusetts) has proposed the “People’s Rights Amendment” to the Constitution which reads as follows:

Article–

`Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

`Section 2. The words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected State and Federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

`Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.’.

This is a shot across the bow after the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission declaring:

The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.

Citzens United was also the case that President Obama attacked in his State of the Union address in 2010 saying:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.

After that statement, Justice Samuel Alito was seen frowning and mouthing the words “not true.”

Citizens United has been a rallying cry for Democrats and the left to try to pass legislation restricting the fundamental rights of people with regard to political speech. In fact, McGovern who introduced the proposed amendment is a Democrat and has 27 co-sponsors of the bill – 26 of which are Democrats.

Make no mistake about it. This proposed amendment is a fundamental attack on the freedoms and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
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FDA Cigarette Regulations Dealt Legal Setback.

In June of 2011, the Food and Drug Administration released new labels and graphic images for cigarette packaging. The FDA imposed rules require cigarette packages to use 50% of the the package and 20% of any print ads for the warnings and FDA mandated images.

We examined the images at the time of their release and thought kids will flock to them as they gross things are always “cool.”

On Monday, November 7, 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled the labels are un-Constitutionally “compelled speech,” handing a setback to the FDA and to anti-smoking groups who want the labels on the packages.

The complaint was originally filed by 5 tobacco firms and claimed the government had no Constitutional right to demand the labeling as the labeling and graphics are not warnings, but advocacy. The tobacco companies said the government cannot demand the companies to put statements such as “QUIT NOW!” which advocates an action or position, rather than factual statements allowing individuals to make their own choices.

In fact, the complaint note the FDA’s own studies indicate the proposed graphics had no impact on any people for 8 out of the 9 images with the remaining image only indicating a slight hesitation in very young people to start smoking.

Not surprisingly, some anti-smoking groups are aghast at the ruling.
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Islamophobic, Racist,…… Hey….. Whatever Works.

In February, 2011, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren walked to the podium at the University of California, Irvine to give a speech.

It was not to be.

In the crowd were Muslims who were intent on shouting down Oren. Eleven times an individual student would rise and shout at the Ambassador. Shouts of “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” and “how many Palestinians did you kill?” rained down on Oren as he he tried to speak. As each person was led away by the police, the pro-Palestinian members of the audience clapped, stomped, hollered and boo’ed to the point where the speech was ended early.

One of the Chancellors of the school repeatedly told the crowd that if they continued to disrupt the event, they would be arrested and charged.

And that is exactly what happened.

Eleven people were arrested that February night and charged with misdemeanors.

Not surprisingly, the 11 claimed they were exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech. After dropping the charges against one of the men, Prosecutor Dan Wagner went ahead with a trial against the remaining eleven.

On September 23, 2011, Judge Peter J. Wilson found the men guilty.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson sentenced the defendants to 56 hours of community service and three years of informal probation. The judge found that the incident did not merit jail time and he added that the probation period would be reduced to one year if the community service is completed by the end of January 2012. Minimal court fines and fees were also assessed against the 10.

The prosecutor claimed the men’s actions were not an exercise of their First Amendment rights, but a concerted effort to deny the remaining people in the audience and Ambassador Oren their same First Amendment rights. Wagner argued the First Amendment was in place to facilitate and encourage the free exchange of ideas. He further contended the men conspired to deny Oren and others rights to exchange ideas by disrupting the speech.

And Wagner had the emails sent between the men to prove it.

After the trial and the small sentences, the 10 men and their lawyers claimed they were the victims.
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Protester In Casey Anthony Trial Convicted and Sentenced

Judge Belvin Perry, who presided over the Casey Anthony trial has sentenced a 64 year old man to 151 days in jail.

His crime?

Handing out flyers that advocated “jury nullification.”

[Mark] Schmidter was arrested in June for distributing pamphlets to potential jurors outside the free-speech zones.

Perry found him guilty of two counts indirect criminal contempt, carrying sentences of 141 and 151 days. Both sentences will run concurrently. Schmidter has also been ordered to pay $500 in fines.

Perry’s permanent order regarding free speech zones, which took effect earlier this [in July], states: “It is prohibited for any person or group to engage in any type of First Amendment activities within the main Orange County courthouse complex grounds, unless the First Amendment activities occur within a designated Exempt Zone…”

The irony of a person serving time for free speech while a person who many believe killed a two year old child is not lost on us here at Raised on Hoecakes.

But there is something else here. Why is it that a judge – any judge – can restrict where people can exercise their right of free speech? They haven’t changed the Constitution, have they? While the First Amendment specifically states that “Congress shall make no law,” that has long been interpreted to mean the government cannot restrict free speech unless it has compelling interests. Was there a compelling interest in a judge saying “you have to stay over here in order to speak?”
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Westboro Wins – Christ Weeps

The Supreme Court of the United States has published its opinion in the case of Snyder v. Phelps.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the case where the “congregation” of the Westboro Baptist Church protested at the Westminster, Maryland funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder who was killed in Iraq on March 3, 2006.

Rather than honor Lance Corporal Snyder’s sacrifice, the so called “people” of Westboro Baptist Church protested at the funeral with signs saying such heinous things as

“God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” “America is Doomed,” “Don’t Pray for the USA,” “Thank God for IEDs,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Pope in Hell,” “Priests Rape Boys,” “God Hates Fags,”“You’re Going to Hell,” and “God Hates You.”

Not exactly a rousing tribute to a fallen Marine.
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