Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Should President Obama Control The Internet?

President Barack Obama wants to control the internet. And if our President has his way, this website may soon be under legal attack from the White House.

Since the internet’s emergence in the private sector (it actually began in the public sector, through developments at the U.S. Department of Defense back in the 1960’s), officials in our U.S. Government have generally viewed the internet as a good and necessary thing.

In 1996, when former Sun Microsystems Officer John Gage began a movement to get high-tech companies involved in providing internet infrastructure for the world’s schools, libraries, and clinics, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore marked the first ever “NetDay” celebration by traveling to Concord, California, and spending the day re-wiring a high school campus with computer cables. Similarly, both President Clinton and President George W. Bush pushed for “every school in America” to be connected to the world wide web, and internet connectivity generally flourished around the globe under the leadership of both Presidents, and by both public and private funding means.

But today, things are different. After approximately seven months in office, President Obama controls, in varying degrees, General Motors, Chrysler, and a variety of financial services companies. He is seeking to control, among other things, the health care industry, the energy industry, and the amount of money that business executives are paid by their employers. And now it appears that the President who ran the most successful, web-savvy political campaign in world history, wants to curtail what other people can do online.

Cass Sunstein, an American legal scholar and Harvard Law Professor, has been appointed by President Obama to head up the “White House Office Of Information And Regulatory Affairs.” His title is sufficiently broad and ambiguous, but he wields plenty of power. And with advance copies circulating of his new book “On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done,” Americans who still care about their rights to “freedom of speech” should be paying close attention.

You owe it to yourself to review what has been reported in both the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal about Mr. Sunstein, and the ideas that he advances in his book. And while we don’t know precisely what Obama and Sunstein will be doing, many of the thoughts that Mr. Sunstein expresses about the internet seem consistent with President Obama’s proclivity to control things, generally.

Perhaps most disturbing is Mr. Sunstein’s vision for the future of web content, as he argues for a so-called “notice and take down” law. Under this provision, those who operate websites - - The Washington Post, radio stations, private bloggers, and perhaps even you, yourself -we would all be required “take down falsehoods upon notice” from the U.S. government.

And not only would the original content of websites be scrutinized by the government for “falsehoods,” website operators would also be held responsible for the content of “posts” created by the website’s visitors and readers. At first blush it may seem that, for a web operator to be held accountable for content generated by “posters,” is completely untenable. But that may very well be Mr. Sunstein’s goal - - to create an “untenable situation” for website operators - given his assertion that “a ‘chilling effect’ on those who would spread destructive falsehoods can be an excellent idea..”

But who shall determine what, exactly, is “true” and “false?” Mr. Sunstein laments the supposed “lie” that emerged during last year’s presidential race, that “Barack Obama pals around with terrorists.” Despite that fact that a friendship between Obama and known domestic terrorist William Ayers was something that both men acknowledged, Sunstein alludes to the notion that this was one of those “destructive falsehoods” of the sort that needs to be policed.

As I was recently talking about this matter on-air at Arizona’s NewsTalk 92-3 KTAR radio, a caller to the show observed that “there’s no way this could be legal, or constitutional..” Thoughtful Americans of all sorts will immediately view this situation through the lenses of constitutionally guaranteed rights.

But issues of “legality” don’t seem to matter, at times, with the Obama Administration. In March of this year, there was nothing illegal about executives of the AIG Corporation being paid bonuses that they earned from their employer, but they were harassed and publicly belittled, nonetheless. President Obama himself demonized them, while dozens of Obama supporters “demonstrated” in front of the private residences of the executives, alleging that it was “unfair” for those executives to be making “so much money.”

In a similar way, it appears that the Obama Administration may be ushering-in an era of harassment for website operators. Regardless of what U.S. courts may or may not say about this in the future, a “notice and take down” letter from the White House could have quite a “chilling effect” for today.


Britain's love-affair with homosexuality again

A doctor has been removed from an adoption panel because she refuses to endorse applications by homosexual couples. Dr Sheila Matthews, who is a Christian, was told that her beliefs on gay adoption were incompatible with equality legislation and council policies. The paediatrician had asked to be allowed to abstain from voting in cases involving same-sex couples. But that led to her being barred from the panel altogether.

The married mother of one said she had been 'made to pay for being honest and upholding my personal integrity'. 'I don't feel that placing children for adoption with same-sex couples is the best place for them,' said the 50-year-old doctor. 'As a Christian, I don't believe it's an appropriate lifestyle and I don't believe the outcomes for children would be as good as if they were placed with heterosexual couples.'

Dr Matthews said men and women brought different skills to parenting, with mothers more nurturing and fathers more challenging. She said children of gay adoptive parents would be more likely to be bullied. 'Professionally and personally I cannot recommend placement in a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for,' she said.

For the past five years she has analysed medical examinations of prospective adoptive parents on behalf of the panel to establish whether the candidates were healthy enough to provide longterm care for a child. Dr Matthews would then take part in the vote to decide if the candidates should be approved. In the past, Dr Matthews had abstained from votes on same-sex parents.

But in February a homosexual couple applied to the panel - the first to do so following the introduction of equality legislation at the end of last year. Dr Matthews was happy to interpret for the panel the couple's medical assessments but was barred from participating after saying she would abstain from voting. Northamptonshire County Council told her she had been replaced on the panel because of the ' significant problems' her views created for the adoption service. In a letter she was told that her stance went against complying with the law and would not help the council attract the widest range of suitable adopters.

She has appealed against the decision and says she may be forced to go to an employment tribunal on the grounds of religious discrimination. The Christian Legal Centre is backing her case and has referred it to Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister.

The council said it was ' communicating' with Dr Matthews, who lives in Kettering, but could not comment further. More than 3,200 children were adopted in England last year - 90 by gay couples.


Australia: A tale about feminism with an amusing ending

AFTER writing a letter of complaint recently, I baulked at signing my name, writes Jenny Letchford. Should it be Ms or Mrs? N.B.: "Whinger" is British/Australian slang for a whiner or someone who complains excessively. It is regarded as childish behaviour

Only which to choose? They all carry so much baggage. Technically I am a Ms, but this has bra-burning connotations and makes me sound like a pushy feminist. Miss sounds half naive ingenue, half old spinster; and Mrs is a bit Stepford Wives. Which would make my letter sound less whiny and more consequential?

Thirty years ago our feminist forebears also thought it unfair that men were addressed as Mr, their marital status obscure, while women were identifiable as either married or a spinster. To stop this blatant sexism, the feminists decreed that all women should be Ms. But not all agreed and we kept all three. Now, whenever a woman fills out a form, she must choose from one of three labels. If only we could remove the stigma associated with Ms and make it a universal, one-size-fits-all title, rather than the abhorrence it is deemed by some.

The leaders of the European Union recently banned the titles Miss and Mrs because they were not considered politically correct. The bureaucrats in Brussels decided the words were sexist, so they issued guidelines in the hope of creating gender neutral language. The guidelines warn against politicians referring to a woman's marital status. (They also deemed the terms Frau and Fraulein, Senora and Senorita and Madame and Mademoiselle sexist, and banned them, too.)

The guidelines in the EU's new pamphlet Gender Neutral Language order politicians to address female members by their full name only. Wouldn't Ms be so much easier?

In Australia calls have been made to reopen the republican debate because we have matured so much as a nation. But what about reopening the feminist debate so that on official forms we choose from two titles, Mr and Ms, not four?

Feminism has brought about enormous changes for women, including equal opportunity and pay in the workforce and access to positions of power, maternity leave and child care. Surely we ought to adopt the feminist title in tribute to our forebears.

As for my letter? I put my husband's name at the end - no title. If they wish to reply, they'll know he's a Mr. And he can look like the whinger.


Child sex abuse victims in Scotland failed by care system, says NSPCC

Social workers are too busy harassing middle class families over minor infractions to be bothered about real problems

Child sex abuse victims in Scotland are being failed by an over-stretched care system, the NSPCC warns. A report by the charity reveals that therapeutic services for children and young people are overwhelmed and says that victims could be left with mental health problems because they are not receiving adequate help.

In Scotland, the NSPCC estimates that there are currently 5,188 youngsters who have been sexually abused and are seeking therapy. However, there are only 134 therapeutic services available across the country.

Debbie Allnock, co-author of the report, said that more work needed to be done to establish the true picture in Scotland, but a UK-wide investigation gave a “snapshot”. This revealed a “postcode lottery” in service provision with only one support programme for every 25,000 children in the UK.

The charity claims that each year at least 55,000 sex abuse victims face behavioural and mental health problems. The 508 services in the report are so over-stretched that many stop taking new patients, while those who secure treatment often have to wait up to a year for it to begin.Teenagers are more likely to miss out on therapy as they are less able to access services for adults and may be considered too old for support on a child protection plan.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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