Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Using the Open Records Law To Intimidate Critics

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the in-the-case-of-letter-v-spirit dept.

Government 369

Layzej writes "On March 15, Professor Bill Cronon posted his first blog. The subject was the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council in influencing recent legislation in Wisconsin and across the country. Less than two days later, his university received a communication formally requesting under the state's Open Records Law copies of all emails he sent or received pertaining to matters raised in the blog. Remarkably, the request was sent to the university's legal office by Stephan Thompson of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, with no effort to obscure the political motivations behind it. In a recent editorial, the New York Times notes that demanding copies of e-mails and other documents is the latest technique used politically to silence critics."

cancel ×

369 comments

Nothing New Here... (1, Troll)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629008)

The is just as contemptible as the Democrats trying to reinstitute a so-called "Fairness Doctrine" in order to silence Conservatives so I fail to see the newsworthiness of business-as-usual. Whoever is in power tries to topple whoever isn't.

It is politics which is sleazy and slimy and harmful for those of us just trying to live.

Re:Nothing New Here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629040)

But a fairness doctrine would ensure Fox's ability to broadcast. I mean, they trademarked the term.

Re:Nothing New Here... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629044)

The is just as contemptible as the Democrats trying to reinstitute a so-called "Fairness Doctrine" in order to silence Conservatives so I fail to see the newsworthiness of business-as-usual. Whoever is in power tries to topple whoever isn't.

It is politics which is sleazy and slimy and harmful for those of us just trying to live.

yes and some fanboi always feels a need to say "but the other guys do it too!" anytime a specific party is mentioned.

we get it. you are now vindicated. have been for a long while actually. you can relax now. we know it's not just "your team".

reminds me of the Coast to Coast show last night. that George Noory guy was talking about how much he loves radio. said he doesn't personally like to be on TV. then he felt compelled to add "but no disrespect is intended there for those who like to be on TV". really? really really? you can't have a personal preference anymore, stated in a non-inflammatory way, without reassuring everyone who doesn't share your preference that they don't need to get offended? i suppose next he can run his preferences by them first to make sure they approve.

is that where we're at in America, are we really that childish? i say let people get their oversensitive panties in a wad if that's what they want to do. fuck 'em. there is no good reason to coddle and accommodate hypersensitivity. some systematic desensitization is what is needed. fanbois like you aren't helping. you're just validating what's wrong with everyone.

Re:Nothing New Here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629058)

you can't have a personal preference anymore, stated in a non-inflammatory way, without reassuring everyone who doesn't share your preference that they don't need to get offended?

George Noory sucks compared to Art Bell. Offense intended.

Re:Nothing New Here... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629180)

George Noory sucks compared to Art Bell. Offense intended.

OK, that's a fair point.

Re:Nothing New Here... (2)

JLavezzo (161308) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629328)

> is that where we're at [as humanity], are we really that childish?
Yes. Pretty much always been this way. A few people manage to grow up and are often the ones involved in public discourse. The Enlightenment was a particularly successful period of time where enough adults got together to come up with some great new ideas.

Re:Nothing New Here... (2, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629588)

"yes and some fanboi always feels a need to say "but the other guys do it too!" anytime a specific party is mentioned."

And whenever someone posts something pointing out the people you agree with do it too, just label them as a partisan "fanboi" and it makes it all okay.

If they really are against you, it helps neutralize their argument in the eyes of those on the fence. If they mostly agree with you, but aren't being sufficiently strident, it may well get them to go back to being more polarized to counter you. So, it's a win in either case.

Oh, and post as an AC so it's hard to link any other views to you. It lets you feign neutrality in the post. And if anyone mentions it, just say it's to keep from being harrassed.

"fanbois like you aren't helping."

Look in the mirror.

Re:Nothing New Here... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629140)

The FOI is perfectly legal, and this technique has been used by groups for years. Whats good for the left is good for the right. Note the FOI was just for his University emails. Not his private stuff. He is a state employee. Paid for by right and left. If he wants to politicize his taxpayer funded teaching position I hope he enjoys the grief he is about to incur. In fairness, there is no evidence he has crossed any lines. Hopefully he was careful. I am all for public discourse. Even in this case where the good professors feelings are opposed to mine.

Apparently I own one of his books, "Changes in the land", I believe he taught at UCONN at the time. Fascinating book. Dispels the Indians as the great environmentalists notion. Other points in the book, the Colonists had New England turned into denuded woods in like 20 to 30 years. And that was all done by hand ax and saw.

Re:Nothing New Here... (5, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629228)

The FOI is perfectly legal,

Except the cases in which is illegal.
TFA:

Let me offer just a few concrete examples.

A number of the emails caught in the net of Mr. Thompson’s open records request are messages between myself and my students. All thus fall within the purview of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA, sometimes known as the “Buckley Amendment,” named for its author Senator James Buckley—the brother of conservative intellectual William F. Buckley). The Buckley Amendment makes it illegal for colleges or universities to release student records without the permission of those students, [...]

Many more of the emails that would be released under this open records request are communications with colleagues of mine at other institutions about various matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with Wisconsin politics or the official business of the University of Wisconsin-Madison—but they do involve academic work that typically assumes a significant degree of privacy and confidentiality. [...]The emails include, for instance, conversations with authors and editors about book manuscripts, and also the deliberations of two professional boards on which I sit, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the American Historical Association (AHA), the latter of which I now serve as President-Elect. Online email exchanges among members of these boards are expected to be confidential, so that all of us are admonished not to share each other’s emails lest doing so discourage colleagues from being candid in sharing their views.

Re:Nothing New Here... (2, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629344)

It wouldn't be "illegal". It just wouldn't apply in the case where communications are protected by other statutes.

Re:Nothing New Here... (2)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629166)

It is politics which is sleazy and slimy and harmful for those of us just trying to live.

Especially now days, it has become nearly impossible for government to help solve the many difficult social issues in America. No matter which side tries to take a step forward, the other side will tear it down. I'm hopeful that the recent trend towards social entrepreneurship [wikipedia.org] will help us move forward.

Re:Nothing New Here... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629278)

By excusing the behaviour of the conservatives you let them get away with it. They'll know they can do this other times too. They will perhaps even try to go further next time. This is a very bad thing.
I know you just want to ensure that the Conservatives are not unfairly picked on, but you are doing it the wrong way. The right way is not to excuse the Conservative when they do wrong, but instead to ensure that the Democrats receives the same amount of criticism when THEY do wrong. By letting both parties know that they are not getting away with their sleazy ways, the political climate would be improved

Re:Nothing New Here... (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629172)

The is just as contemptible as the Democrats trying to reinstitute a so-called "Fairness Doctrine" in order to silence Conservatives

It would be if the Democrats had tried to "reinstitute" the so-called "Fairness Doctrine".

You have any evidence that they "tried" to do this when they were in power?

On the one hand you have the Wisconsin GOP actually doing this repressive open records bullying and on the other hand you have this "trying" you speak of that never happened.

I'm surprised you didn't add "Frst Pst" to your comment.

Re:Nothing New Here... (0)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629454)

All snark aside, I do remember quite a bit of talk about the Democrats attempting to reinstate it, from politico's and 'normal people' on both sides of the aisle, perhaps 8-10 years ago. It never went beyond talk, I think, because the Democrats discovered that they didn't need it anymore, having seen that they were becoming much more adept at manipulating public opinion through the 'new media' of the internet - e.g. MoveOn, HuffPo, DU... - than through the traditional outlets.

The Republicans have yet to figure out how to reach the younger demographic of net users, from what I can see. I think they dropped the ball on that, as far as advancing their own interests is concerned. It could be as I've read, though, that younger people as a rule tend more towards a 'liberal' train of thought, and so if that is the case, the 'conservative way' will never quite have as loud a voice online simply due to the fact that the internet is more easily used and understood by those who have grown up with the current state of the tool, instead of those who find themselves having to "reverse engineer" it.

And what will be really interesting to see, is how that shift occurs again in 10 or so years, what will come of *that*...

Re:Nothing New Here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629678)

What worries me is that media control/marketing is the best way to get votes. There seems to be no belief in a natural Zeitgiest, but rather top down morals and ideals.

For the love of god, mod the parent UP! (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629526)

The only people I've ever heard talk about reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine are Republicans and their shills. It's especially been a talk radio talking point, and used repeatedly as a scaremongering tactic. I listen to Neal Boortz now and then, and I've heard him constantly harping on how Democrats want to shut down talk radio. The only problem is, I never hear any Democrats actually try to shut down talk radio. It's just a fabrication, another conservative scaremongering tactic just like all the others.

It's simply not true. I'm about as liberal as they come, and I have exactly zero interest in shutting down or changing talk radio. I mean, sure, some liberal out there has probably mentioned the Fairness Doctrine at some point, but I'm pretty liberal myself and I have exactly zero interest in pushing any kind of law to change or shut down talk radio and I don't know of anyone who does. This clatter all probably rose because someone made an offhand comment, and conservatives saw a chance to jump in and try to scare the bejesus out of everyone, thinking that the big, bad liberals are trying to take away the First Amendment or some crap.

I normally don't post "Mod parent UP!" posts, but damn, what a day not to have mod points of my own. :( I'd also mod the OP down. "Insightful?" Politics sometimes being sleazy isn't particularly insightful, and the claim that Democrats tried to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine is an outright lie.

Re:Nothing New Here... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629256)

If he did blog as a representative of the University that is a risk he runs, but if he did blog as a private person on a separate service with a separate mail account related to the blog it's completely independent of where he is employed. In the latter case the first amendment should apply without constraints.

In the first case the university may fall under cases of being a public institution and then it's possible that the emails sent/received for him are public information but then it's up to the legal office to take care of it.

Re:Nothing New Here... (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629302)

Er... The media is supposed to be liberal, isn't it? So the fairness doctrine, rather than silencing conservatives, should ensure they have a voice in the public debate, despite the media's liberal bias.

I remember the post-Vietnam era when "conservative" was a dirty word. Broadcasters, whatever their political position, didn't want to present unpopular positions associated with Vietnam and Watergate, so the only place you heard conservatives was on fairness doctrine mandated segments. I remember a number of local conservative radio personalities that I first heard giving their opinions in one of those times set aside for crackpots under the fairness doctrine. These segments were pretty amateurish affairs; the stations didn't have to help these guys with production values, but these guys learned. The fairness launched some conservative media careers that later proved to be influential.

Having to present opposing opinions doesn't mean you are silenced, unless your position is so weak that merely hearing an opposing viewpoint will obliterate it in your audience's mind. In the old days in which conservatives had to scrape fairness doctrine time to be heard, they didn't get anything like parity in time; they just got a few minutes now and then preceded by a disclaimer that the station had nothing to do with this nut. The fairness doctrine didn't sweep away the editorial power of the stations. It did keep opposition to the public's prevailing political mood alive.

Conservatives have done very well by the fairness doctrine, but now that the shoe is on the other foot they've discovered a whole new set of libertarian principles they didn't have when they needed the fairness doctrine to keep their viewpoint from being silenced.

Re:Nothing New Here... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629326)

But conservatives dominate the mass media, so the socalled effort by dems to demand fairness is nothing but more right wing BS

Look at , say, Charlie Rose: as R Nader recently posted on www.commondreams.org, a majority of Rose's guests are right of center corporate spokespeople.

Look at , say, the N Y Times: it acted as a cheerleader in the lies leading up to the Iraq ware (I think lies is an accurate word here)

Look at how, say the leaders of BofAmerica, Goldman or Citi are portrayed in the media: are they protrayed as crimminals, who ran vast fradulent enterprises (yes, crimminally negligent loan practices) or are they portrayed, say by Obama, as people deserving of their salarys ?

The truth is that radical conservatives, backed by a handfull of ultra wealthy people (Kochs, Murdoch) dominate nearly everything in this country except universitys and unions; thats why the right is so bent on destroying tenure and collective bargining - it is the one area that is still outside their control.

And I think "radical conservative" is fair, because, by definition, something that is to the right of what a majority of people in this country think is rightwing; say the union thing in WI; a majority of Americans are opposed; if this were not driven by Koch like money, it would never have got as far as it has

Re:Nothing New Here... (-1, Troll)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629358)

I think Stalin would consider you a bit too far left.

Re:Nothing New Here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629700)

Your attempt at an insult doesn't make him any less correct.

Re:Nothing New Here... (0)

slugstone (307678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629558)

Wow, have you checked out who are the politic reporters for ABC, CBS, NBC? Last time I check, they all worked for the democracy party at one time.

Re:Nothing New Here... (5, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629342)

I think the proper comparison is to the letters that the police and fire fighters' unions sent to business that contributed to Governor Walker's campaign in last year's election that contained veiled threats if those businesses failed to publicly express opposition to the budget bill that Wisconsin just passed. There is also the cases of Democratic Party affiliated groups using the open records laws to gather the information of people who signed petitions for referendum they opposed and then protesting at those individual's businesses and/or place of employment.
I find it interesting that until the Republican Party starts to use Open Records laws in this way, no one expresses much concern over Democratic Party affiliated groups doing the same thing.

Re:Nothing New Here... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629606)

I find it interesting that until the Republican Party starts to use Open Records laws in this way, no one expresses much concern over Democratic Party affiliated groups doing the same thing.

And I find it interesting how the Right always whines about how they are being picked on - especially when they are doing something that exposes their hypocrisy. Isn't the Right always posing itself as the "thinking" end of the political spectrum that "tolerates dissent?" Well, except when it's real, dangerous dissent that threatens to expose just how bankrupt the Right is.

Re:Nothing New Here... (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629552)

Except that's a nutty conspiracy theory and this actually happened (source: TFA).

Re:Nothing New Here... (0)

TarPitt (217247) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629630)

No there is absolutely no equivalence here.

First, there is no push by the Democrats to re-institute a fairness doctrine.

Second, regulations requiring balance in the presentation and analysis of public opinion do not silence or intimidate any point of view. They simply require those using scare public airwaves to allow those presenting these view to be open to allowing opposing view some small amount of time in rebuttal. This was in recognition that owners of media have a vast power to shape public opinion and public agenda, and that if unrestricted these owners would succumb to the temptation to only presenting views favoring their position.

I grew up under the fairness doctrine. Nobody was "censored" owing to the fairness doctrine. Nobody was prevented from airing their point of view. There were plenty of opinionated blowhards on radio and TV in the 60's and 70's despite the fairness doctrine. Censorship is the forceful suppression of speech. Nobody was suppressed during the regime of the fairness doctrine.

If you political position is so weak that allowing your opposition a small amount of time to rebut it is censorship, then I would contend your political position is entirely illegitimate in the first place. If granting a political opponent 5 minutes of opposition would silence your position, your position is based on fluff anyway.

It is a very strange definition of censorship that includes presentation of opposing views. This definition implies that the only legitimate views are those endorsed by media owners, and that only media owners have the right to present political opinions on publicly owned airwaves

Re:Nothing New Here... (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629670)

the only people raising the issue of the fairness doctrine are the right wing radio hosts going derper and derper raising the specter of the fairness doctrine.

Nobody else is even discussing it's return.

Not just Republicans (3, Insightful)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629026)

It's not just Republicans doing this.

Look at HuffPo's website: http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/ [huffingtonpost.com]

Type in the address of your neighbor, see what political groups they contribute to. They used this to pull a list of Prop 8 contributors in California, to intimidate them.

I could make some sort of argument about anonymity and free speech, I guess, but apparently these things only matter when it's the other guys doing these acts.

Re:Not just Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629072)

Looks pretty agnostic to me. Info - presumably publicly available anyway - on both dems and repubs.

"They used this to pull a list of Prop 8 contributors in California, to intimidate them"

Who is this 'they' - The Huffington Post, a writer at or for the Huffington Post, someone else, someone in your imagination? Linky or it doesn't count.

Re:Not just Republicans (1, Informative)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629112)

Re:Not just Republicans (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629194)

Shaka, did someone "intimidate" you for contributing to the Prop 8 campaign?

I'm looking for "intimidate" in the stories you link to and it's not there. Is this personal with you?

Wait a minute...is your last name "Phelps"?

Re:Not just Republicans (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629394)

>>Shaka, did someone "intimidate" you for contributing to the Prop 8 campaign?

Me? No.

The only political contributions I've ever made are to the EFF, if you can even call them that.

>>I'm looking for "intimidate" in the stories you link to and it's not there. Is this personal with you?

Boycott is. They were used for intimidation. Or do you think that posting all those personal addresses was just for fun?

Re:Not just Republicans (0)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629418)

>>I'm looking for "intimidate" in the stories you link to and it's not there

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=prop+8+intimidation [lmgtfy.com]

White powder mailed to Mormon churches, writing a supporter's clients (http://articles.sfgate.com/2008-11-23/opinion/20871510_1_scott-eckern-free-speech-intimidation) and so forth.

What you (and everyone) needs to realize is that just because someone has the same political beliefs as you, doesn't mean they're angels.

Re:Not just Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629088)

I could make some sort of argument about anonymity and free speech, I guess, but apparently these things only matter when it's the other guys doing these acts.

You know what you could do instead? Provide positive proof that any contributors to Prop 8 where actually intimidated - not just "fearing they might be", but actual harassment. Because I have seen plenty of evidence that gays are discriminated and targeted (like those fun gay-bar "investigations" conducted by homophobic police departments that end with gay men arrested and occasionally beaten). But not a single news item about rich homophobes being even slightly inconvenienced.

Re:Not just Republicans (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629314)

Once you're intimidated, you definitely don't want to be quoted as an example.

The only time someone intimidated actually wants publicity is when that person failed to be intimidated and is suing the pants off the person who failed. In that case, there would likely be a trial.

On another note, TFA would be a good textbook case of why even if you fail to be intimidated, even if you think there's good standing for a trial, there likely won't be one: too much collateral damage to the victim even if he wins.

Re:Not just Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629420)

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/14/local/me-lopez14

Re:Not just Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629106)

It's one thing to look up on a public database and it's another to demand documents for a dragnet of things one might have said. You're comparing Apples to Veal cutlets here.

The sad lesson here is we will now see "do nothing wrong and you have nothing to worry about" proven wrong.

In Wisconsin or anywhere else for that matter, if they get these emails, they will find something that they can make a HUGE deal out of - even if he was a Cubscout parent or something, they'd twist it into something perverted because that's what the political party hardliners do.

Re:Not just Republicans (0, Offtopic)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629188)

They used this to pull a list of Prop 8 contributors in California, to intimidate them.

"Intimidate"?

Did you feel intimidated, Shaka?

Re:Not just Republicans (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629406)

>>Did you feel intimidated, Shaka?

You just said this five messages up, dude.

No, my name and address aren't in that database, since I don't contribute to political causes on general principle. Only the EFF, which is a nonprofit, since they're the only group whose goals align with my own.

right to remain silent only one left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629050)

isn't that what we do best, other than superficial trivial pursuit/noise when we're being mean, or killed? so that's good that we still have something right?

fear is the primary weapon of unprecedented evile. the truth repels it. both the fear & inhuman behaviors of the walking dead (no conscience)

Another word for such behaviour... (1)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629064)

Suppress and intimidate political distention. Tick that box [wikimedia.org] .

stallman to intervene (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629116)

maybe he & a few others could be invited (by us) to attend some of the 'secret' holycost meetings, to see if he can make any sense of it/help them stop doing it? save lives/money who knows what else

Re:Another word for such behaviour... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629148)

>>Suppress and intimidate political distention

I know that our political processes are full of hot air, but distention is going a little too far.

motivations (5, Insightful)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629090)

If you're going to have an open records law then you don't get to make exceptions for political reasons. Otherwise you end up with the inevitable, "It's only OK to request records for a cause advantaging the sufficiently powerful." It's the listener flip side to declaring freedom of speech then listing a million forms of speech which don't really count as speech.

The role of the professor in open-minded contemplation / testing ideas / free academic discourse / blah is irrelevant. Everyone should be able to engage in all these things, and life would be even worse if only certain classes of people are exempted on account of being allowed to "think more freely" than others, or something.

This means that any open records law must be limited in application to specific people in specific roles which affect the public: legislative, executive or judicial. In particular, those representatives directly elected or those appointed by such representatives should expect to have all their correspondence scrutinised.

Exceptions may only exist when the exception is required to protect the well-being of a private citizen, and they must exist for only as long as that protection is required. For example, correspondence relating to a police investigation would not be appropriate to reveal until the investigation and any judicial wheel-turning is complete, but should be available for perusal after that unless certain private witnesses need protecting. If the witness-protection justification is used, it must be well documented so that, after the natural death of the witness (or as appropriate), records can be revealed and our descendants can study our performance and learn from it.

Remember also that, while today we think that we have an impossible mound of bureauratic record-keeping, in 100 years time computer systems may be able to intelligently search and analyse more text than we have ever created.

Alas, the most corrupt will communicate off the record anyway.

Re:motivations (5, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629128)

Alas, the most corrupt will communicate off the record anyway.

This is a key point, as various politicians in recent years have been caught using non official email accounts for their "official" duties.

Re:motivations (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629490)

Alas, the most corrupt will communicate off the record anyway.

This is a key point, as various politicians in recent years have been caught using non official email accounts for their "official" duties.

That's why the voter has the right to recall any politician who fails to live up to their campaign promises.

Re:motivations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629642)

To replace them with another politician with different views who will have to be recalled in a few years as well, repeat ad infinitum.

Re:motivations (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629224)

This means that any open records law must be limited in application to specific people in specific roles which affect the public: legislative, executive or judicial. In particular, those representatives directly elected or those appointed by such representatives should expect to have all their correspondence scrutinised.

This is a state employee engaging in political speech. Perhaps academics should be afforded some leeway in being allowed to do so in an official capacity. But there's no reason to grant any type of shield against scrutiny by those who pay their salaries, the taxpayers. We are absolutely fed up with government workers lying to and manipulating us, with our own money, on behalf of their own hidden agendas. No exceptions.

Re:motivations (3, Insightful)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629340)

Thomas Mann: "Everything is politics."

To concern yourself with who pays the man is to engage in non-productive bitterness. Have you ever done work for a company which has at any point benefited from a government contract? Have you ever purchased anything from a company which has benefited from a government contract? Then you are benefiting, however indirectly (and all corrupt beneficiaries benefit indirectly), from the taxpayer and all your records should be made public.

What matters is not who pays him but the power he has. If the government puts him, say, in some sort of policy-making or judicial role then his work clearly becomes that of a government official. If he's just doing research and teaching students then, well, feel free to judge him on that. He, like any government or private employee, will have an opinion on stuff, and his opinion will affect his work. If you want him to hide that opinion then, well, "don't ask don't tell" doesn't work, OK? If you want his opinion not to influence his work inappropriately, that's fine and that's what the university administration (which is a government official role) comes in.

Re:motivations (1)

node_chomsky (1830014) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629648)

This is a state employee engaging in political speech. Perhaps academics should be afforded some leeway in being allowed to do so in an official capacity. But there's no reason to grant any type of shield against scrutiny by those who pay their salaries, the taxpayers. We are absolutely fed up with government workers lying to and manipulating us, with our own money, on behalf of their own hidden agendas. No exceptions.

I don't see evidence of this in my life at all, state employees do everything for you constantly to keep your quality of life as high as possible, where would you get your water and what would you be doing with your excrement without them, would you wallow in and consume as you seem to now? I like Firefighters, cops, soldiers, and teachers a whole lot. You apparently think they are all "lying to and manipulating" you "with your[sic] own money, on behalf of hidden agendas". What hidden agendas? Putting out fires? Enforcing the laws of the state? Teaching people how to write? Are those the agendas? If that is what you do not want from society, you are simply an anarchists, and have nothing constructive to say about government. What about the people who clean up the garbage you have thrown on the ground? What about social workers? Have you ever been helped by someone? Did you teach yourself to read and write? Do you put out your own fires? Are you driving around dangerous neighborhoods to keep the innocent people that live there safe? Are you feeding someone before they start knocking on your door to beg for food? Is the world about being fair? Do you deserve everything you have in life? Are you more deserving than those who work much harder than you and have less anyway? Do you really think society could in any way function without public employees and the services they provide? And lastly, do you realize that public employees pay just as much taxes as you do, and trying to differentiate them in that manner makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever? If not, try just shutting the fuck up about them being paid by your tax money as a reason they must obey your personal will, because you sound pathetically naive and foolish beyond measure. Most people aren't that stupid, so it isn't convincing anyone but other fools of anything about the reality of life. I hear arguments like this among the 4th graders I work with, if that puts your developmental level in context (if you are a third grader, congrats) It's literally the stupidest fucking argument in history, it logically defeats itself in so many ways.

Re:motivations (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629230)

The role of the professor in open-minded contemplation / testing ideas / free academic discourse / blah is irrelevant.

Actually it's not. The open records law refers to the email of "government officials". A professor, as an employee of the state is not an "official" any more than the janitor. The law is pretty specific about this, actually. The term "government official" has been discussed in court cases and it refers to university administrators but not professors.

It's harassment pure and simple, but so far everything the Wisconsin GOP has done has blown up in their faces, and it looks like this will, too. They've got to make hay while the sun shines, because recalls are a-coming their way.

Re:motivations (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629276)

Perhaps I did not express myself clearly enough. The fact that the professor is involved in open-minded contemplation / testing ideas / free academic discourse / blah is not what makes him exempt. It is the fact that he is not acting as a government official.

For example, a government-sponsored think tank is involved in open-minded contemplation / testing ideas / free academic discourse / blah, but I think there is a sound argument that its interactions (considering particularly its relationship with any special interests) should be made public. And when a professor is charged by government to help implement some awful reform, his work should then be treated as a government official's work. This is so not least because, if you're in the United Kingdom (see: drugs, welfare, banking regulation, etc.), the academic is likely to eventually announce that the government's implementation of his proposal is awful, acts in contradiction to his advice and needs complete overhaul - even while the government continues to insist that it is acting on sound academic advice. The public, including other well-meaning academics, can find out whether the academic was hoodwinked or whether he was in on it from day one.

Re:motivations (3, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629304)

> Alas, the most corrupt will communicate off the record anyway.

I'm afraid this is not a reliable assumption. I've seen such correspondence working with business partners, cleaning up after other departing partners. People are quite careless about where they keep their illicit documents, fiscal data, passwords, insider trading communications with people outside the company, and correspondence about job candidate evaluations that violate gender and racial and age bias regulations, etc. I was once asked to help retrieve email messages about an employee seeking an internal transfer, where the manager of the other department actually wrote that they did not want to get stuck with the employee's pension bills when they retired, and couldn't the employee be eased out before then. (After retrieving the email, I brought this to the corporate legal counsel: we cooperated to help educate the HR department that this was going on, that this was illegal, and to explain the costs of throwing out your most experienced people by surprise and leaving them _angry_ at you. The manager got released due to this and other issues, the manager's upset about my "unauthorized access" let the employee know what had happened despite my discretion, we wound up acknowledged by the rank and file of our partner's employees as being on _their_ side, and that transfer worked out very well for our partners and for us working with them.)

But people engaged in such casual corruption are notoriously careless about their record keeping, and their social correspondence can very much provide links to their activities. It can also lead to that nest of political troublemakers who are engaging in unwelcome but legal activity, such as starting a union, planning a skunkworks project, or are being approached by corporate recruiters. People often don't _plan_ to do illegal things. They do them as part of their ordinary lives, and forget (over time) that this is not acceptable behavior, or come to think of it as "how things are done". That's where an outside partner can be very handy, to help remind both partners of how they _should_ be done for reasons of safety, ethics, and profit.

Re:motivations (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629482)

If you're going to have an open records law then you don't get to make exceptions for political reasons.

But as you yourself point out, you *do* get to make exceptions based on operational or functional reasons. You go on to say:

Exceptions may only exist when the exception is required to protect the well-being of a private citizen, and they must exist for only as long as that protection is required.

That's a different kettle of fish. Sometimes, as Dick Cheney pointed out in the brouhaha about his energy advisory committee, officials have to be able to deliberate privately. Cheney wasn't wrong in principle, he was just wrong in application. You have to balance that need with the public need to know who is influencing policy and how. But it's perfectly true that public employees can and do deliberate without revealing everything they say. It is simply not possible to think critically with a Zampolit, actual or virutal, looking over your shoulder.

For example if you are evaluating a contract bid, you might bring up the question of whether a bidder has the capacity to do what he says. You bring this up *before* you have justification, because the purpose is to explore that question. If that were public, it would immediately cause a stink and if the bidder was politically connected your investigation of that matter would be promptly quashed. When it comes time to make a formal decision, you lay out the basis for that decision, not necessarily bringing up doubts that after examination did not turn out to be warranted. The basis for your decision is made fully public, not every concern that you considered. If you get it wrong, the loser sue.

While this way of doing things is not perfect, and there is potential for abuse, there is actually more potential for abuse if powerful, interested parties can monitor the process in detail, steering it away from places they don't want it to go.

The role of the professor in open-minded contemplation / testing ideas / free academic discourse / blah is irrelevant.

In the words of the immortal Samuel J. Snodgrass, that's what *you* say. There are arguments for academic freedom that are worth considering before dismissing them out of hand as "blah blah".

life would be even worse if only certain classes of people are exempted on account of being allowed to "think more freely" than others, or something.

You are under the mistaken impression that public employees are not allowed to "think freely". They *are* allowed to think freely, *and privately*. What they are not allowed to do is actually set policy or make decisions about spending money or labor privately.

A political FOIA Request! Stop the presses! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629134)

Almost all open records act requests are political. They're mostly made by organizations with an agenda.

Government Agency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629154)

I thought the Open Records were for government agencies only? Isn't this a university or just an individual?

Over-reaction (3, Insightful)

davide marney (231845) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629168)

I don't see anything nefarious about this FOIA request. The author is a public employee, and his emails are public records. Here's the text of the request, in full:

From: Stephan Thompson [mailto:SThompson@wisgop.org]
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:37 PM
To: Dowling, John
Subject: Open Records Request

Dear Mr. Dowling,

Under Wisconsin open records law, we are requesting copies of the following items:

Copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.

We are making this request under Chapter 19.32 of the Wisconsin state statutes, through the Open Records law. Specifically, we would like to cite the following section of Wis. Stat. 19.32 (2) that defines a public record as “anything recorded or preserved that has been created or is being kept by the agency. This includes tapes, films, charts, photographs, computer printouts, etc.”

Thank you for your prompt attention, and please make us aware of any costs in advance of preparation of this request.

Sincerely,

Stephan Thompson

If there's anything "chilling" about this request, I sure don't see it. When you write a blog article that is critical of a political party, and get over a half-million hits within days, you should expect a little attention from the people you're poking a stick at.

Re:Over-reaction (5, Informative)

eggoeater (704775) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629262)

He is NOT a public employee; he is an employee of a university which (more often than not depending on the state) is a separate legal entity.

Just because an organization receives government funding does not make them a government agency.
Also, if what you say were true, then every book written by a professor would be in the public domain.

Re:Over-reaction (0)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629372)

If that is the case, they they go to court and a judge decides...Why all the hyperventilating?

Re:Over-reaction (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629462)

He is NOT a public employee; he is an employee of a university which (more often than not depending on the state) is a separate legal entity.

From the U of W site:

The University of Wisconsin System is one of the largest systems of public higher education in the country, serving almost 182,000 students each year and employing more than 32,000 faculty and staff statewide.

More information [wisconsin.edu] .

He's a public employee.
 
 

Also, if what you say were true, then every book written by a professor would be in the public domain.

Wrong for two reasons. One, off the job, what employees do in their off time belongs to them, not their employer. Two, on the job, governments do have the ability to copyright and patent ideas and inventions and sell them. The US DoD generates a few hundred patents every year it sells, with the money going back to the government.

Re:Over-reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629532)

Public records requests can be made for schools, etc, at least in California.

A professor's book is presumably prepared on their own time, as a separate project, and no using public funds, and, therefore, not subject to public records requests.

I work at a university, with my pay and equipment and infrastructure entirely paid by the public, and it has been made very clear that any work product belongs to the people. If I want to write a book, I need to a) disclose that I am doing so; and b) ensure that I don't use "work" resources to work on it.

Re:Over-reaction (1)

Edgester (105351) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629676)

Even though universities are separate legal entities, they are owned by the state for the most part. Public universities are still considered part of the state, and are subject to most of the same rules as regular state employees along with a few new ones like FERPA.

Over-reaction? Over-reach, rather. (4, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629298)

If there's anything "chilling" about this request, I sure don't see it. When you write a blog article that is critical of a political party, and get over a half-million hits within days, you should expect a little attention from the people you're poking a stick at.

A little attention would have been good. Seems rather a case of huge attention and too small of a care

TFA:

A number of the emails caught in the net of Mr. Thompson’s open records request are messages between myself and my students. All thus fall within the purview of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA, sometimes known as the “Buckley Amendment,” named for its author Senator James Buckley—the brother of conservative intellectual William F. Buckley). The Buckley Amendment makes it illegal for colleges or universities to release student records without the permission of those students, [...]

Re:Over-reaction? Over-reach, rather. (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629378)

So then cite the emails, exclude them and send the rest. What the fuck is the big deal? Chilling? Hyperbole.

If the requester has a problem, they go to court and the judge decides of the Buckley Amendment applies.

Re:Over-reaction? Over-reach, rather. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629612)

What the fuck is the big deal? Chilling? Hyperbole.

FO

Re:Over-reaction (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629318)

It is chilly in the sense that once someone says something critical they are singled out. He simply pointed out that the policies the republican party is rallying against are policies that they had a hand in as a party. The squeaky wheel gets oiled. There isn't any debate that Stephan Thompson has submitted this request in order to find a way to discredit this individual for purely political reasons. Do you think they hired a private detective to follow him? Perhaps they pretext-ed the phone company and got copies of his bills? It outlines what their intentions are.

Re:Over-reaction (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629388)

So..you mean like the mod system on Slashdot...say something critical and someone mods your comment out of existence.

Turnabout is fair play (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629320)

Seems like a good idea to ask the same questions of Stephan Thompson, using exactly the same law.

Re:Over-reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629502)

He's not a "government official", which are the only people affected by the law.

Better to keep work life and home life separate (4, Interesting)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629184)

A lesson that I learned a long time ago, keep your work life and home life separate. The attorneys for your workplace will have the company's interest at heart, not yours. Our company has a fairly liberal computer policy. You can use workplace computers for personal use as long as it does not interfere with work or break any laws. Nonetheless, in our ethics training, it was pointed out that if the company is sued, they may be required to give my computer to the other side. And they will. And anything private on it is open to discovery. They advised keep work and home separate. So I have separate email accounts, separate computers, etc. Never let the two mix.

Re:Better to keep work life and home life separate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629356)

I think that this is a perfect reason to create a honey-pot like environment. If they're going to search, it's going to be a tough search.

Re:Better to keep work life and home life separate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629376)

Our company has a fairly liberal computer policy. You can use workplace computers for personal use as long as it does not interfere with work or break any laws. Nonetheless, in our ethics training [...]

The above quote sounds as if from some dystopian sci-fi novel. You talk about the most absurd liberty crushing concepts as if completely normal. Where do you live and what kind of company do you work for? You should really quit both!

Re:Better to keep work life and home life separate (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629738)

Really? You're kidding right? Most workplaces want you working not pursuing personal agendas at work. That's not sci-fi but present day. They sure don't want you using company time and equipment to break any laws for your own personal gain (maybe for their gain depending on the company).

Update from most transparent government in history (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629206)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1370371/Vice-Presidents-staff-lock-journalist-closet-hours-fundraiser-stop-talking-guests.html?ito=feeds-newsxml [dailymail.co.uk]

How are you Obammy apologists going to rationalize this away? If Bush had done this, you all would have been screaming, "ZOMG, shrub = teh Hitler!!!"

Re:Update from most transparent government in hist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629268)

was not locked in a cupboard. TFA says he was not given access to the dinner before the speeches
, he was asked not to enter. My opinion is if they didnt want him at the dinner, they shouldnt have invited him to the dinner.

I am not surprised that the daily mail headline is sensationalist.

Re:Update from most transparent government in hist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629282)

Please be advised that source newspaper for that story is the Daily Mail.

I shall let that publication's dubious reputation speak for itself.

Re:Update from most transparent government in hist (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629334)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1370371/Vice-Presidents-staff-lock-journalist-closet-hours-fundraiser-stop-talking-guests.html?ito=feeds-newsxml [dailymail.co.uk]

How are you Obammy apologists going to rationalize this away? If Bush had done this, you all would have been screaming, "ZOMG, shrub = teh Hitler!!!"

Not even Faux News has covered this... and they will cover anything bad.

Remember, if it is on the interwebs, it must be true!

Time for Wisconsin-ites to man up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629208)

Start using the amend the Wisconsin Constitution process. Ask for things like Instant Run-Off Voting (a way to break the back of the Republican AND Democratic parties), allow direct contact with Grand Juries (like California - thus the citizens could approach the Grand Jury directly with charges VS elected officials - at the moment you have to have a Judge or the DA approve of your charges) and I'm sure there are other "Reforms" which can be proposed which would be ways to make the Elected/appointed people's life hard and give the citizens something more than voting every few years.

Sounds like it's time... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629210)

...for a revolution in the US

Re:Sounds like it's time... (0)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629294)

That's the Tea Party's vapid refrain. While I admire their passion about what they perceive to be wrong about American politics, the notion that a "revolution" is required in order to bring about any significant change, left or right, is... premature. If enough Americans were to wake up and realize what is happening, they could elect the right people and solve the problem. Complacency and/or an almost willful ignorance, however, are enabling the fascists to solidify their power. When it gets bad enough that enough people realize how "the land of the free" has turned to shit, armed revolution may indeed be the only thing that will turn things around.

So, returning to the topic, open records laws are a key tool for the engaged citizen to maintain control of his/her government. It's not perfect, but it is a way to make sure that the dealings of our elected officials, their appointees, and perhaps most important, their dealings with those who buy influence, are as visible as possible.

I find it cute... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629214)

I find it cute that citizens of the United States of Anerica truly believe they live in the land of the free.

Congressional requests (1)

shoppa (464619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629236)

At my "day job" I occasionally have to respond to congressional inquiries.

Internally we have many checks and balances on data, computer records, personally identifiable information, etc.

All of those checks and balances are sumarrily bypassed when it's a congressional inquiry. Often I see all the crap checks and balances being bypassed as cutting through unnecessary red tape and have to have some respect for the ability of a congressman to bypass all that crap.

Usually in response to such an inquiry I take the attitude of "shoot them all and let god sort them out". i.e. if it's a computer database we turn over literally hundreds of thousands of pages of data. The requests are in fact fishing expeditions almost all the time so it's hard to respond otherwise.

Re:Congressional requests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629732)

Just hope you don't have any privileged data anywhere, otherwise that kind of thing may be illegal and may even have you personally liable (e.g. if you signed an NDA with the wrong people).

Why I'm careful about that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629246)

As an employee of a US state government, I'm very careful about guarding the work/personal boundary for exactly that reason. If it doesn't relate to my job (an if it is political, it doesn't - it would actually be against state law for me to do so) I ensure it is kept in the personal accounts.

I've also refused certain stipends from my employer due to the records-law hooks they create, e.g. one would make my personal cell phone records be subject to requests, even beyond such time as my employment there ends.

DO YOUR JOB if you are a public employee (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629324)

If you are a public employee, DO YOUR JOB when you are at work. Do your personal opinion crap on your own time using your own equipment.

I'd like a law that allows any person to video/audio record any public official during work hours regardless of where they are. The only limitation should be that the release of the recording must be delayed by 60 days. We should be allowed to record
- public school teachers
- public university professors
- police
- military
- senators
- representatives
- presidents
- governors
- air traffic controllers
- judges
- court rooms
- prison wardens, guards, doctors, whatever
- anyone who works in a public facility (doctors, lawyers, IT, security, secretaries, directors, whatever).

I don't believe there should be open access to all parts of every facility.

If you don't want to be recorded, don't work in the public sector.

when will people learn, email ain't private (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629338)

how many times before people get the message , if you want privacy, don't do it electronically ? Actually, if you want privacy, write it on a single sheet of rice paper, on a glass sheet, with destatic sizer, in a room with variable lighting to fool cameras, in a dead language known only to you and your intended recipient

Eye of the beholder (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629350)

Why is one instance of a legal request for open records considered bullying and intimidation and the other one not?

Re:Eye of the beholder (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629658)

At issue is the question of whether a professor at a publicly-funded research university is a public employee or not. If you consider them public employees then of course this is completely reasonable. If not, however, it's a frightening attempt at censorship that calls back the actions of McCarthyites in successfully campaigning for the illegal removal of tenured faculty in their ridiculous witch-hunt. Those of us in academia tend to see research universities as independent entities under contract to the State, but others may view them as extensions of the state itself. The legal truth on this varies from state to state; some are separate entities funded by the state, others do not have this separation.

Of course it's my opinion that email ought not to fall under the scope of these laws, whether or not he's a government official, but it is quite clear legally that it does. So keep a separate personal email account; it's not like they're going after his personal email or anything and he gets to redact communication with students and unpublished research which are the only two important things in your professional [academic] email anyway. Let them fish.

The real impact will be financial (2)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629360)

There is a lot of time and effort that goes into fulfilling one of these Open Records requests, someone has to pay for it. I suspect that the vice chancellor of the university will have a little chat Professor Bill Cronon telling him what it cost and suggesting that he doesn't cause such an expense again or else ....

If you don't like the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629384)

...then lobby to have the law changed, don't just complain that the other guy wants to read your emails.

Unless your problem is that you didn't think of snooping first. In which case, carry on then.

no big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629392)

BFD, once you post an email or a physical letter for that matter you should expect the contents can easily become public knowledge. This is hardly a surprise.. If you prefer more privacy post or write anonymously.

Thank Scientology (4, Interesting)

Timtimes (730036) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629398)

Looks like the professor has been label as an SP (suppressive person), and anything done to ruin him is considered "fair game". Enjoy.

Email Privacy (3, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629428)

One of the common mistakes at the heart of the matter:

"they do involve academic work that typically assumes a significant degree of privacy and confidentiality."

It strikes me nearly as tragedy that so many people see email as private and confidential. SMTP is unencrypted, most cloud services (gmail, hotmail, etc) are automatically reading every email that hits them, and I suspect the federal government either already has or soon will kick email out of the ever narrower sphere of "reasonable expectation of privacy" -- leaving it unprotected by the term "unreasonable" in The Fourth.

We (geeks, hackers, etc) did not make it easy enough for the plebs to encrypt their email, and did not make it common practice to do so. Now everybody uses postcards, even for their most intimate communications, and powerful entities get to read whatever they want.

Scarier: Give it a few more years, and I'd wager using encrypted communications will become reasonable cause for search and seizure, or used like removing the battery in a cell phone has been in court cases -- as evidence of foul intent. They won't have taken the freedoms of speech and association, we will have given them away.

Just because something's legal ... (1)

hduff (570443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629432)

... doesn't make it right.

Stephan Thompson of the Republican Party of Wisconsin has done an anti-American thing by stifling free speech. No surprise from the state that gave us Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy [wikipedia.org]

Scary (5, Insightful)

node_chomsky (1830014) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629438)

Apparently the new 'in' thing for fascists is to use the freedom of information act to obtain emails sent by their critics about them. Apparently, academic freedom seems to be dissolving. I don't understand how the freedom of information act can be used to invade the private transactions of professors, but it has happened several times over the last year or so, and has been entirely perpetrated by the increasingly more rabid conservative undertow in this nation, not all conservatives, but a specific group of highly politically (as opposed to socially or morally) motivated people. I had the displeasure of hearing what conservative talk radio sounds like these days while I was driving through the highly conservative '3-corners' region of Missouri (i.e. Limbaugh's homeland), and it is astoundingly racial charged and disturbingly desperate and angry. These people are truly scary, and we really should keep our eyes peeled (as intelligent and reasonable people) for the horrible emerging attitudes in this country. If you asked an average German citizen about their attitudes on putting Jewish people in ovens in 1938, it is likely they would think you were crazy. And if you asked them what National Socialism meant, they would say it had something to do with purity and sexual abstinence, the words like 'Jew' or 'camp' likely would have never come up. No to compare these people to Nazi's, but it illustrates how quickly the most infamous act of hatred in human history can emerge from the consent of a naive population. I guess, ultimately, I am trying to say, that it is our job as being vigilant and morally informed people to see things like McCarthyism and National Socialism before it becomes a problem.

"Thuggish" - any action not by a liberal? (1)

Fringe (6096) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629512)

This isn't "news" or an example of overreach. The request is completely legal and shouldn't be considered "intimidating" unless he has really done something wrong. Let's not forget that all of Gov. Walker's emails got FOI'd by the AP in a lawsuit too. Not just some, all. If Cronon considers it harrassment for his to be opened, how does he feel about it applied to Gov. Walker? How is the request "thuggish" compared to the intimidating applied by the Unions during and after the recent debate? Or are these cases of, "It's okay when its us investigating the evil corporate-Republicans, but they're just petty when they use it against us?" If he had any privacy concerns, he should have done what most of us probably do - GMail from a (non-University) cell phone.

Re:"Thuggish" - any action not by a liberal? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35629704)

Sorry, this is a really poor comparison. For starters, Walker is an elected official, and should be expected to be under scrutiny. The professor of a state university is not elected, nor an official. Scott Walker made specific public claims about the contents of his emails as support for his bill, and the only way to verify the truth of those claims is to read the emails. Te professor made no claims involving anything regarding specific contents of his emails. Actually, I'm a bit lost onn the purpose of this FOIA request. Can you explain it to me?

It's His Personal Blog! (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629524)

It doesn't appear to have anything to do with the university at all. It's part of a larger website that also belongs to him. I'm not going to post the whois record, but it's available for all to see.

I fail to see what his university has to do with his personal website or his personal emails. By rights, this should go nowhere. If the Republicans somehow succeed, it will be a miscarriage of justice in terms of freedom of speech. Of course Justice has been miscarrying quite a bit lately...

Wow (3, Interesting)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629594)

We've all of a sudden, had a lot of high-numbered Slashdot users appear with well-written, slick conservative opinions.

This doesn't seem right -- if anything Slashdot tends to libertarianism with a smattering of liberals.

Are we being subjected to some kind of conservative dirty trick -- or is it merely rutting season for right wing retards?

Re:Wow (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35629718)

iirc the HBGary emails did include references to very large astroturfing campaigns and with the Citizens United decision stuff like that can be carried out even more secretively. I have seen it elsewhere like on Fark.com, "new" or even fairly long ago registered but rarely/never posting suddenly being very vocal and very coherent with other similarly activated accounts.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...