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First Amendment

This isn’t going to be a helpful blog today. Well, other than a quick writing update that is. So if you’re here looking for publishing and writing tips, you might want to skip this blog post today. Over at the Mad Genius Club, they have some interesting conversations going on about publishing and the creative process.

Writing has been stagnant, as it always is when I’ve got too much on my plate. I’m still waiting for the release of Corruptor, which should be within the next few months barring any other delays. I’m doing decent on the rewrite of the first Christian Cole novel. Hopefully agent provocateur Mike Kabongo over at the Onyx Hawke Agency will like it enough. I’m also in the process of revamping Christian Cole book two, finishing up Wraithkin, beginning to plot and write Wraithguard and outlining Wraithlord. Throw in stage managing The Dearly Undeparted, a youth production and acting in Cinderella, Cinderella as Prince Charming… *sigh*. Yeah, busy-busy-busy.

Beware: the following is a political rant. Not anything about publishing. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Tonight I want to talk about one of my favorite Amendments. No, not the Second Amendment (though it’s definitely up there). I want to talk about the First Amendment. What, exactly, is the First Amendment? Well, I’m glad I asked. Here it is, in all its’ glory:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What does it mean? Well, first off, let’s break it down step by step. First, Congress shall make no law is pretty easy. Senate and the House of Representatives can’t make a law. Which means that the following is pretty important, wouldn’t you say? Yeah, I’d agree with that sentiment.

Next: respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Well, we all know that, right? The reason that this was placed is partly because the Founding Fathers had seen what had happened in England with the formation of a national church (aka the Church of England). So they decided that the government wasn’t going to endorse one church or the other. No church can be tied to the government, in other words. But that also means that the government cannot prohibit any religion as well. You want to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Only in America will that not get you stoned, beaten, raped for your family honor and burned to a crisp.

Continuing: or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. Well that’s easy. F*ck government censoring, we can say what we want. And the press should be able to say what it wants as well, right? Well, sorta. There are rules around it, as the FCC has proven over the years as they have grown increasingly powerful. The FCC, which is a government agency, controls the time people can get over the air and on television, which basically means the FCC is a direct violation of the First Amendment. But alas, the court of public opinion deems that the FCC is a “necessary evil” (I hate that phrase, by the way. Nothing is a “necessary evil” unless you want it to be.) and allows it to continue to censor your daily life. Charming, ain’t it?

Another aspect which gets you into trouble nowadays is if you are inciting “hate speech”. Hate speech could mean anything. You hate gays and speak out openly? You’re committing hate speech. Inciting people in a park to “redress issues with our government” and happen to be clamoring on about the Jews? Hate speech. Etc Etc and so on… But there’s nothing illegal about speaking your mind, is there? Hrm…

Onwards! Or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Son, if you don’t understand this one, you haven’t made it to college yet. If you have, you’d notice that protesting on a college campus is deemed “disruptive” and they now provide you with safe “Free Speech Zones” on campus, which, oddly enough, coincides with the most out of the way spot they could legally find. The college will not say that they are limiting your freedom of speech, merely ensuring that the focus of your speech doesn’t detract or interfere with daily lesson plans on campus. Hrm… testy, but nobody has successfully challenged a public school regarding this. Odd, really.

Now, the reason this all came up is because I was reading my favorite (and only, it seems… main stream media drops the ball more often than not) war correspondent Michael Yon (http://www.michaelyon-online.com/) regale about his last reentry into the states after being overseas for months. He was in the Seattle airport when he was detained by Customs agents after not telling them how much he makes. No, not smuggling cocaine or opium from Afghanistan. Nor counterfeit money or laundering it for the mob. No, he was detained (handcuffs on the wrist means detained, read your Miranda Rights means arrested) while agents went through his private notes about being overseas while in their custody. He refused to answer their question regarding who he worked for as well (he is an independent news journalist, which means freelancer) and they sat on him. Story link here: http://www.nhinsider.com/press-releases/2010/3/31/alg-appeal-to-be-filed-in-stonewalling-of-foia-request-on-wa.html

Now, I feel this ties in with the First Amendment. Why? Because while you have the right to speech, you also have the right to shut the f*ck up as well. Nobody can make you talk or speak out against your will. And thanks to the Fourteenth Amendment (due process clause, thank you Allgeyer v Louisiana), this applies to the states as well as federal government. So Michael Yon, who I’ve had contact with regarding me potentially going to Afghanistan and embedding myself in with the troops while covering what they do, was detained for not speaking. This, to me, sounds ridiculous. Surely the Department of Justice will allow for the Freedom of Information Act to be invoked so we can get exactly why these Customs agents were so rude to Mr. Yon… wait, we can’t? Why not? Oh, because the most transparent government in the history of the US just got a little murkier. Whatever, I say.

It’s a little deal that, if not adressed, can turn into a big one. No person should be subjugated to detainment and questioning just because one refuses to answer a Customs agent’s questioning.  According to their own website, they state the following:

Formed in 2003 as part of the federal government’s response to the 9/11 attacks, ICE’s mission is to protect the security of the American people and homeland by vigilantly enforcing the nation’s immigration and customs laws. ICE combines innovative investigative techniques, new technological resources and a high level of professionalism to provide a wide range of resources to the public and to our federal, state and local law enforcement partners.

Nothing wrong with that, I feel. But then I have to stop and ask myself: “Who are the agents working for the ‘safety net’ of America? Who are our sheepdogs?” So I decided to continue on with my investigation into who they hire. And, surprisingly enough, their requirements state it all.

Requirements:

U.S. Citizenship: Candidates must be United States citizens and present proof of citizenship, if selected.

Residency: If you are not currently an ICE employee, you must meet one or more of the following primary residence criteria for three of the last five years prior to submitting your application for employment:

  1. Resided in the United States or its protectorates or territories (excluding short trips abroad, such as vacations);
  2. Worked for the United States government as an employee overseas in a federal or military capacity; or
  3. Been a dependent of a U.S. federal or military employee serving overseas.

Qualifications by Closing Date: Unless otherwise noted, you must meet all qualification and eligibility requirements by the closing date of the announcement.  Please note that qualification claims will be subject to verification.

Background Security Investigation: You will need to successfully complete a background security investigation before you can be appointed into this position.

Probationary Period: This is a full-time permanent position (Career/Career-Conditional appointment). Upon appointment to this position, you may be required to serve a one-year probationary period or a two-year trial period, depending on the authority under which you are appointed.

Drug Testing: All non-DHS selectees for this position will be required to submit to urinalysis to screen for illegal drug use prior to appointment.

Wait. That’s it? Where’s the education requirements, the experience levels? *sigh*

Never mind. The good news (good enough?) is that Michael was freed and is now back in Afghanistan reporting on the war. His First Amendment rights, as well as our own, are still (somewhat) shakily protected by a measly little paper called the Bill of Rights. Until, at least, Homeland Security deems free speech to be a terrorist threat. Oh, crap….

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