No, we don’t need to bring the Fairness Doctrine back

Many liberals complain that we need to bring back the “Fairness Doctrine” to prevent Fox News and other right-wing outlets from spouting constant lies.

While the right-wing lie machine is indeed a problem, bringing back the Fairness Doctrine is not only a bad idea, but it wouldn’t solve the problem.

The Fairness Doctrine was established in the late 40s to apply to radio and television, and it required broadcasters to provide equal time to opposing views. It was eliminated during Reagan’s attack on all government regulations.

Somehow, hiring TV hosts to be President hasn’t worked out so well for us

Doesn’t the doctrine seem to violate the 1st Amendment, by regulating what you can say on your own radio or TV show? Well, yes and no. The Supreme Court held that TV and radio were different than newspapers or magazines (which never had to follow a “Fairness Doctrine”). There were limited frequencies available — only so many TV and radio stations could fit on the same dial in the same area. Therefore, the government needed to regulate those frequencies to prevent overlap and confusion. And if you wanted a license to broadcast, the government could put restrictions on your license: Only so many commercials per hour, no obscenity, public service announcements, and equal time to opposing views.

This never applied to cable, which doesn’t need “frequencies.” There is an infinite amount of cable stations that could exist, so the government cannot regulate it in the same way. The Supreme Court even ruled in one case that it could not be applied to newspapers or magazines since there was not a limited number that could exist, and the same logic applies to cable.

So even if we brought back the Fairness Doctrine, it would not affect Fox News or other cable stations at all.

And why would we want it to? Seriously, do you really want that? Think about it. It would have to apply to everyone. You really want Rachel Maddow to say “And now, for an opposing view of what I just talked about, here’s ten minutes of Rush Limbaugh”? No, that’s not why I watch MSNBC.

The other thing to consider is that even when we had this, it didn’t work very well. Not all views are equal. Yet, in order to meet the requirements of the Doctrine, TV stations had to give time to the most ridiculous things. “And now, to counter our learned doctor who spoke of his wish for everyone to get a vaccination to fight the covid virus, here’s a guy who has a web page claiming this will place microchips in our skin so that Bill Gates can track our moves and better gauge where to send the chemtrails.” TV stations would cave in to ridiculous “equal time” provisions so as not to lose their licenses.

So no, we don’t need the government regulating free speech and violating the 1st Amendment. Whenever you think that way, ask yourself how that can be used against you. Imagine if Trump had been re-elected and was given the right to demand “equal time” and regulate TV stations and cable news that way. You think they’re going to go after Fox, or will they attack all the stations they consider “fake news”?

 

Dear conservatives whose free speech rights have been violated:

I know you can no longer post on Facebook or Twitter, but here’s the rub:

YOUR RIGHTS ARE NOT BEING VIOLATED.

Setting aside the issue that only the government can violate your 1st Amendment rights, let’s address the issue where instead you’re claiming that you’re being silenced by the Powers That Be for your views.

Some of you are complaining because of the difficulty of trying to set up a place where you can speak and not be “censored for your views” but it’s too difficult to get a foothold in the free market. I would suggest that we should look into breaking up monopolies so that companies can’t get so big that it is impossible to compete with them — oh, right, you’re are against that, too. Maybe the “free market” isn’t the solution to all our problems after all.

What we really need to do is look at what you’re really saying, because, let’s face it, no one is censoring conservative voices.

You want to start a new service for conservatives where you can discuss conservative issues? Lower taxes, less regulation, abolish the UN, whatever? NO ONE WILL STOP YOU.

What is being restricted are hate posts. Posts arguing for the violent overthrow of the United States Government. Posts calling for the murder of people you don’t like. If you consider those “conservative” views, then that says a lot about you, doesn’t it? If these sites were all run by Islamic extremists calling for violence and hatred, I’d bet you’d be the first to demand they be shut down.

“Dammit, they won’t let me into McDonald’s any more to scream about QAnon to the other patrons! And not only that, they have a sign outside that says ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’! My rights are being violated!” NO THEY’RE NOT. You can scream all you want in your own home, but no one has to be forced to give you a place to scream. You have the right to say just about anything, but you don’t have the right to demand that anyone provide you with the forum for you to say it.

You want to join civilized society? Be civilized.

The 1st Amendment limits the government, you idiots

With Twitter banning Donald Trump and Parler being limited and people losing their jobs over their participation in an armed rebellion against the United States, some idiots on the right are screaming that their 1st Amendment rights are being violated … which just goes to show once again that these people who claim to be patriots don’t understand the most basic things about the country they pretend to love.

Here’s an excerpt from my book HOW TO ARGUE THE CONSTITUTION WITH A CONSERVATIVE that explains it all:

The 1st Amendment says that the government cannot limit your rights. The government.

Every day there’s another article about someone whining that their 1st Amendment rights were violated because they lost their job or got kicked off Facebook or got criticized for something they said. All that does is demonstrate to the world that you have no idea what the 1st Amendment is.

One recent case involved a bank teller who was fired for saying “Have a blessed day” to her customers. She also criticized patrons for “taking the Lord’s name in vain” and talked to people about “salvation.” She was told by her boss to stop that, but she didn’t, because Jeebus demands her to do so or something. And she was fired.

An employer has the right to tell their employees not to discuss religion, or politics, or anything of the sort with the customers, in the same way they can tell you to not wear boxing shorts and tank tops to work.

There’s a place for everything, and that is not the place. It’s a business decision.

If the business fired her simply for being a Christian, she would have a wonderful case, because her rights were clearly being violated. For that matter, if the bank fired her for saying any of those things on her own time when she wasn’t working, then I would happily take her case and fight against such a clear violation. But reasonable work rules such as “Don’t piss off our customers” don’t get that kind of protection. (We’ll talk more about this kind of thing when we discuss Freedom of Religion next chapter, especially when dealing with idiots who think that they have the right to discriminate because their god tells them to.)

A few years ago, “actor” Rob Schneider was fired from a nice job doing insurance company commercials when they discovered that he had been arguing against vaccinations. Insurance companies like vaccinations—they save lives and save insurance companies lots of money. But Schneider—who gets typecast as an idiot in movies for a reason—screamed that his constitutional rights were being violated.

Look, Rob, you have every right to say whatever the hell you want to about vaccines. You can spout nonsense about the world being flat if you want to. No one has the right to stop you from doing that. You can continue to spout this idiocy forever if you so choose, because the 1st Amendment guarantees your rights there.

What you don’t have is the right to a job or a platform for your speech. A newspaper doesn’t have to print your opinion. A TV network can cancel your show if you are saying things that they disagree with (especially if it hurts their ratings). A public school can fire you as a science teacher if you’re trying to teach your students creationism. An internet discussion group can kick you out based on what you say. Facebook and Twitter can decide you’ve violated their terms of service. Your freedom of speech is not violated in any of those incidents. You can continue to say whatever you want, just not with an audience provided by someone else. Because the 1st Amendment prohibits the government from taking away those rights. The government. I’ll say it again. The government.

 

Why Trump-appointed judges have ruled against him

Donald Trump knows nothing about how government works, and was clearly under the impression that all the judges he appointed would be loyal to him.

But now his lawsuits have had more than fifty losses and only one procedural win early on (having to do with forcing Pennsylvania to do something it was already doing, so it’s kind of moot). Judges from every state have ruled against the GOP’s attempt to destroy democracy. The Supreme Court twice (and swiftly) refused to hear the appeals and not one Justice filed a dissent.

And many of these judges were Trump-appointed.

And here’s why that happened:

The GOP has been filling the courts for years with right-wing ideologues, many of whom are deemed “unqualified” by the American Bar Association. These radical judges have done a great job in destroying many of our basic civil liberties and bending over backwards to give corporations wins.

But these people were nominated in the first place because they are (what I call in my Constitution book) “Constitutional Fundamentalists.” Like religious fundamentalists, they believe there is only one interpretation of their holy document and lo and behold, they know exactly what it is and it matches their own views perfectly.

Justice Scalia was one of the prime movers of this idea on the Supreme Court, believing not only that his view of what the Constitution was correct, but that everyone who disagreed with him was not only wrong but very likely evil as well. Fortunately, he no longer does this, primarily because he is dead, but his views live on.

These fundamentalist judges honestly believe that they are being fair in their decisions and are fanatics to the fantasy document that exists in their head. They don’t think they are interpreting the Constitution in any way, ignoring the fact that every decision a court ever makes about the Constitution is an interpretation. (If the Constitution was as clear as they believe, there would never be a need for a judge at all.)

This mindless refusal to acknowledge that other people’s views may be valid is typical of conservatives who are not known for their tolerance of anyone different, but it’s important to consider now — because these judges think they are doing the will of the founders in the same way religious fundamentalists believe they are doing the will of their god.

And that’s why these judges are never going to ignore that Constitution like the Trump lawsuits require. These suits have no basis in our laws, are completely frivolous, and ask the courts to ignore democracy and our system of elections completely and just hand over the presidency to the loser who wants to be a dictator.

These judges are fanatics for the Constitution, not for Trump. And that’s why he keeps losing.

Why the Electoral College has to go

With the election on everyone’s mind, I’ve been answering a lot of questions about the terrible Electoral College. So to make things easier, here I am reading the chapter from my book HOW TO ARGUE THE CONSTITUTION WITH A CONSERVATIVE explaining the concept and why we need to get rid of it (including a discussion of the Wyoming Plan).

One nation except for you

“One nation, except Jews, with liberty and justice for all.”

What? That is insulting? It’s unconstitutional?

There are more Americans who consider themselves atheists or agnostics than there are American Jews. (And there’s probably a lot more in the closet, afraid to admit their beliefs because of the discrimination they’d face if they did.) But apparently non-believers don’t count and don’t matter to many Americans.

Because right now, what many of us hear when the pledge is read is “One nation, except you.”

The pledge of Allegiance didn’t used to have those words “Under God.” Those were added in the 50s, during the McCarthy era, to show that we weren’t like those godless commies. But what it did was immediately exclude Americans. The irony of excluding Americans and then immediately saying “indivisible” is lost on them.

So be kind. Refuse to say “Under God,” explain why to other Americans, and be inclusive instead of exclusive.

Taking down our statues

The Confederate statues we want brought down are on our property, maintained by our tax dollars.

You want a statue of some treasonous general? Fine. Pay for it yourself and put it on your own property. That would be completely legal and there won’t be a damn thing we could do about it.

We’re just saying stop using our tax money to support monuments to traitors.

1591847250_17025421+1jdearly061120

Reading “How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative”

Want to hear the first chapter of my book HOW TO ARGUE THE CONSTITUTION WITH A CONSERVATIVE?  Of course you do!

 

PA’s DUI/marijuana law is unconstitutional

I currently have an appeal pending in the Pennsylvania Superior Court regarding our DUI laws as they relate to the presence of marijuana in one’s system. The Pennsylvania ACLU has joined my appeal.

Here’s the press release my law office has prepared:Depositphotos_107920198_original-683x1024-1

The current DUI law punishes anyone with any amount of marijuana in their system and as such is unconstitutional, according to Fisher and Fisher Attorney Michael A. Ventrella of Stroudsburg. He has filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court on this issue which has been joined by the Pennsylvania ACLU.

“The DUI law was written years ago, before there was legal marijuana in many states and before Pennsylvania provided for medical marijuana,” Ventrella explains. “The law says that if you have any amount of marijuana in your system while driving, you are automatically guilty of Driving Under the Influence even if the marijuana is no longer affecting you.”

The case on appeal concerns a driver who was pulled over for a taillight violation. The officer thought he smelled marijuana so requested the driver to give blood to prove he was not under the influence. No marijuana was found on the driver or in the car. The blood test came back with an inactive metabolite of marijuana in the driver’s system. He was charged and at his trial, the Commonwealth’s expert witness testified that an “inactive metabolite” meant that he had consumed the marijuana possibly days earlier and that the presence of the metabolite did not affect his driving in the slightest.

Under Pennsylvania DUI law, you can be charged with DUI if it is clear that your driving was impaired due to alcohol or drugs, but you can also be charged with DUI simply if there is the presence of marijuana in your system.

The court, bound by the law, found him not guilty of driving while impaired but guilty of DUI for having the marijuana in his system.

“This means that if you consume marijuana in a state where it is legal and then come to Pennsylvania, you can be prosecuted for DUI even if your driving was not impaired in the slightest,” Ventrella explained. “It also means that technically, anyone who has a medical marijuana card and uses their prescription legally can never drive in Pennsylvania.”

Ventrella pointed out in his brief to the Superior Court that the law punishes legal behavior and is therefore overbroad and unconstitutional. “The law needs to be rewritten to adjust to the changes that marijuana laws have had on society,” Ventrella says, “but the legislature of Pennsylvania has yet to do what other states have done to remedy the situation.”

The Pennsylvania ACLU joined in with the appeal and filed an amicus brief, emphasizing that the law does not define the word “metabolite” and is therefore vague and unconstitutional.

The Superior Court originally scheduled a hearing on the appeal for April but has cancelled it due to the corona virus shut-down. It is unclear whether it will be rescheduled or if the Court will simply make a decision based on the briefs.

UPDATE: The Superior Court denied the appeal by ignoring pretty much everything we had argued. The case is now before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether to accept it.

How to Argue the Constitution with a Conservative

My latest book is now available in paperback and hardback, with he kindle version coming soon. If you like reading this blog, you should enjoy the book!

Here’s the copy from the back cover:

Immigrants have no rights!

America is founded on Christianity!

Unlimited guns are my birthright!

These are just a handful of arguments being shouted by vocal conservatives even though the Constitution of the United States–the very laws of our nation–says something quite different.

If liberals are going to counter these erroneous, angry, ill-informed positions with facts, they need to learn for themselves what the Constitution says.

To remedy this knowledge gap, criminal defense attorney and unabashed liberal Michael A. Ventrella teaches the basics with a large amount of humor and snark, all illustrated with more than 40 cartoons by 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial artist Darrin Bell, creator of the syndicated comic strip Candorville.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

Studies show that a majority of Americans know very little about the Constitution, the very document that is the foundation of our government and laws. That doesn’t stop them from having an opinion, of course. We’re Americans; we think we know everything.

This is especially true of many conservatives these days, who proudly hold positions contrary to all facts. (Climate change is a hoax! Evolution is a lie! Trickle-down economics works! Being gay is a choice! Obama was born in Kenya!) You’ll never win a debate with these people because they’re operating on a completely different plane of thought as the rest of us.

However, there really are some reasonable conservatives out there who will respond to actual logic and facts. They may not be in charge of the current Republican party, and they may be few and far between these days, but when you do encounter one, this book may help you.

For that matter, this book may also help you debate well-meaning liberals who don’t understand things like Freedom of Speech. There seems to be an impressive number of them, especially on college campuses.

And it’s really not that complicated to get the basics of the Constitution right.

This book is meant to help. It’s definitely not a textbook; I’m not going to go into great detail about the hundreds of years of case law, and hopefully I’m going to keep it interesting (something my Constitutional Law professors often had trouble accomplishing). It’s short — almost as short as the Constitution itself—because it’s meant to be introductory. Even if you just read this short book, though, you’ll know more about the Constitution than 99% of your fellow Americans, including certain Presidents I could name.