September 11th, 2010
“Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.”
- Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. Senator from New York, 1965-1968
We, the undersigned, are progressive bloggers from across New York State. We write, report, and opine about the politics, culture, and economies of our diverse communities. Since the 17th Century, New York State has been a gateway to the New World for people from all over the world - of every color, nation, and creed. Openness, tolerance, and diversity are what made New York great. The movement of people, ideas, and commerce westward to America's frontier was made possible by all New Yorkers.
The rights guaranteed to us as citizens of New York and the United States are blind to religion or race. We, the undersigned, extend our hands in friendship to Muslim New Yorkers - who, like people of any faith, share our common hopes and dreams for themselves and their children.
In 2001, violent extremists indiscriminately murdered and injured thousands of innocent New Yorkers, including hundreds of Muslims. Those extremists committed their crime in the name of Islam, perverting it into a message of hatred and fear. We remember starkly the pain of this attack, and have overwhelming compassion for its victims and survivors.
But we cannot allow a hateful act to engender new hate. American values, principles, and rights should not be jettisoned because they are claimed by, or owed to, a particular faith whose name was horribly abused. We New York State bloggers believe it is our duty to stand up for the values that make America great - that our laws and Constitution apply equally to all - Muslim and Christian; Jew and Gentile; believers and non-believers.
We, therefore, support and defend the right of Muslim New Yorkers to build a community center on privately owned land in Lower Manhattan.
Phillip Anderson (The Albany Project), Alan Bedenko (BuffaloPundit/WNYMedia.net), Rich Boatti (The Albany Project), Michael Bouldin (The Daily Gotham), Adama D. Brown (GlowDemocrats), Ezra Ford (Jefferson Democrat), Brian Keeler (The Albany Project), Cynthia Kouril (Firedoglake), Elana Levin, David Michaelson (The Daily Gotham), Mark Odien (WNYMedia.net), Liza Sabater (CultureKitchen), Chris Smith (WNYMedia.net), Andrew C. White (The Albany Project) read more »
We have a new server.
We're working out the kinks with it's configuration and more importantly pageload speed.
No, the path to the FILES folder still needs fixing. Images will still be broken for a few more hours.
We should be done with this mutha tonight.
Enjoy the LOLCat.
You can file this story in a number of different categories: the inability of many New York politicians to grasp the nature of blogs, the cozy way in which political machines do business, the heavy-handed means by which these same machines preserve their power, and lastly, the perils of hosting a forum where anyone can speak out above stuff.
And by stuff, I mean "things people in positions of power would prefer not be talked about".
Per Room 8, that site was served with a criminal subpoena, coupled with a gag order, demanding the release of logs pertaining to a single anonymous blogger on the site. The subpoena was issued in January by the Bronx District Attorney, who was one of the subjects of the posts of the anonymous blogger; you can deduce from the fact that a subpoena was issued that these posts were not in the nature of praise. Unfortunately, the anonymous poster in question deleted all of his entries, but some of them are cached here (.pdf). As an aside, CultureKitchen Media, the publishing entity of this site and others, keeps a lawyer on retainer as a precaution against precisely this scenario.
Ben Smith and Gur Tsabar, the publishers of Room 8, decided to fight the subpoena with the help of a public-interest law firm, and filed papers in state court demanding it be withdrawn.
So we chose to fight the subpoena, and were lucky to be referred – by our friend Orthomom, whom he’d represented – to a talented, dynamic lawyer at the Public Citizen Litigation Group, Paul Alan Levy, a national expert on online free speech. (Support his work here.) He and our smart, thorough, generous, and knowledgeable local counsel – Charlie Spada and Deepa Rajan of Lankler, Siffert, & Wohl – first determined that the Bronx DA was, in fact, seeking the information. Then, in May, they filed a motion to quash the subpoena in state court. (You can read the legal paperwork here.)
Two months later, after we asked the judge to move on the case, the DA withdrew his subpoena. They withdrew the threat of prosecution for speaking about it only after we threatened to sue them in federal court. We’re thrilled by the outcome, and grateful to our lawyers.
With the immediate legal peril removed and the gag order lifted, it's time to take a look at what actually happened here. The outlines of that are damning. An anonymous poster made comments and posted diaries on a blog that were critical of the bi-partisan Bronx machine, including of the local District Attorney, one Robert Johnson. Shortly thereafter, a Grand Jury empaneled by the same D.A. issued a criminal subpoena demanding details captured by the site in an attempt to identify this poster. Subsequently, the poster - his handle is "Republican Dissident" - or someone presumably acting on his behalf deleted the diaries in question.
The New York Times discusses some of the underlying constitutional issues here.
Lawsuits over information posted online are usually civil, not criminal — that is, they are filed by private citizens or companies trying to keep something off the Web. Courts have developed ways to evaluate the claims, often using tests to balance the First Amendment’s protections of speech against the harm caused by whatever someone wrote or said.[...]
But there are fewer precedents explaining how courts should evaluate criminal subpoenas, according to legal experts. Perhaps that is because prosecutors are more cautious about the risk of violating the First Amendment and so issue fewer criminal subpoenas, or because the subpoenas themselves carry language prohibiting disclosure of their terms.
“In the criminal context it’s trickier because it’s the government asking for stuff, and I think it’s going to be harder to fashion a rule, especially when the government is not exactly willing to part with the reasons” for requesting the information in the first place, said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor at Harvard.
Without knowing the motives of prosecutors, he continued, judges may be hard-pressed to balance their needs against the importance of free speech.
The core of First Amendment jurisprudence is the concept of a chilling effect on Free Speech; broadly, the government may not take certain actions that might intimidate a citizen from exercising his or her right to speak on whatever he or she may choose. There are obviously restrictions to the general principle, including for libel, obscenity, national security, trade secrets, and the like. What was at stake in this case, however, wasn't any of these concerns; it seems, rather, like an attempt to promote the job security of various elected officials, including the issuer of the subpoena, the elected District Attorney himself.
In short, this looks entirely too much like an abuse of power and of judicial process in the furtherance of strictly political goals. Of course, there may be perfectly reasonable justifications for the subpoena, reasons that outweigh the chilling effect.
We could learn about those reasons by means of an independent investigation. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has oversight of the District Attorneys, would be the right man to talk to about that.
Tracey Brooks, running for Congress in the 21st District, sent out a remarkable press release today.
Democratic Congressional candidate Tracey Brooks today announced the launch of her online advertising campaign, posting her first ad to The Albany Project, www.thealbanyproject.com, a leading political and campaign blogosphere resource.[...]
"We're so excited to launch our first online ad -- and do it on a blog -- as we continue to bring our message of change directly to the people in new and exciting ways," said Brooks.
"We are the first campaign to post an online ad, as we were the first to reach thousands of voters in a single night through a telephone town hall meeting. We were also the first to launch YouTube videos, online volunteer registration, online fundraising, and internet social networking tools." [Emphasis added]
What's remarkable is that she's right: her campaign is the first in this entire cycle to buy an ad on a blog. Think about this for a moment: only one campaign in the state of New York has bought an ad on a Progressive blog for the 2008 elections. Or maybe that's not so much remarkable as it's sad. read more »
So I just cruised on over to Room Eight, which I very rarely do, and found this bit of piffle. My apologies if this isn't, shall we say, timely. The subject is the state blog credential to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, which for this state, to everyone's astonishment, went to that blog.
Under the heading of Room Eight Envy, we find this:
The DNC [Ed. note: Actually, it was the DNCC, which is a different animal] earlier this month unveiled its 55 picks. Predictably, complaints from the feisty independent blogosphere started to emerge, the most high profile of which came from the progressive blogfathers themselves, DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas and OpenLeft co-founder Matt Stoller.
The piece is a teaser for this article in Wired (to which I contributed a number of emails, so I'm somewhat surprised it came out as it did), which deals with the controversy over state blog credentials at the DNCC.
So I just have to point out that envy isn't really what's being felt on the subject. Surprise, consternation, amusement, sure. Envy? No, not really, or not at all.
I'd further suggest that, honestly, this type of rhetoric isn't going to further the kind of era of good feelings some of us have been trying to foster over the entire mess. Something that looks like a sharp stick in the eye or even, heavens forfend, gloating, isn't all that helpful. Because, you know, that would tend to piss people off royally.