SocraticGadfly: 9/15/13 - 9/22/13

September 21, 2013

Will the next black Texas Democrat to run statewide please stand up?

After all, we haven't had one since former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk challenged John Cornyn for the U.S. Senate in 2002.

Hell, even counting Kirk, in the last 20 years, there's been more black Republicans run for (and win) statewide races with Wallace Jefferson and Dale Wainwright getting elected to the Texas Supreme Court. And, let's not forget the GOP's Bow Tie, Michael Williams, elected to the Railroad Commission way back in 2000.

Per the Austin American-Statesman, you have to go back to 1990 to find the one black Democrat elected to statewide office, and within the judicial branch, the Court of Criminal Appeals is certainly a cut below the Supreme Court. And, interestingly, the story focuses more on Hispanic nominations and elections within both parties than on African Americans.

What brings this to mind is PDiddie's post looking at downballot statewide races in 2014 and Democratic chances. He mentions prominent black Democratic state senators Royce West and Rodney Ellis and wonders if either of them will finally bite the bullet. (Eye on Williamson asked the same question earlier this summer.)

I commented there, in essence: Not a chance.

Here's an expanded version of my thoughts.

Neither Royce West nor Rodney Ellis will make any fricking leap. As I said on my updated post about blue-state Tejas and Hispanic demographics, talking about black Democrats, who besides Ron Kirk has run for a statewide office? In the last decade, the GOP has had more blacks running statewide, in the person of Wallace Jefferson. Beyond that, I said black state senators like their little patronage and back-home ring-kissing. Unless it's the surest of things, and the statewide office is high up the scale, AND it's not in a senate re-election year for their seats ...

Ain't.Gonna.Happen. Period and end of story.

And, the re-election year problem rules out West, anyway.

Besides, with Royce, I believe that somewhere, some of that ring-kissing includes some tenuous connection to John Wylie Price and his obstruction of the Dallas Inland Port in south Dallas/south burbs. I hadn't heard anything specific before I left, and Jim Schutze at the Observer's never fingered Royce (who's too skilled to get directly entangled with JWP), but still. For more on JWP, go here on my blog.

Even if that's not true, no, Royce West ain't never running for a statewide office. I don't know as much about Rodney Ellis, but I suspect the same will be true for him.

Beyond building up urban black power satrapies by playing off the prestige of their part-time Senate jobs while doing an occasional actual solid for their constituencies (like West getting the state to require police departments to file annual racial profile reports on all traffic stops and on all arrests from them), and not wanting to give them up, I'm not sure what else the issue is.

Maybe some statewide jobs, like ag secretary or land office commissioner, seem too rural-white to be desirable. Maybe the Railroad Commission seems to require too many white connections in the oil biz. (That's even as West, at least, shows ability and desire to work across ethnic and party lines.) What about comptroller? AG? Lite guv? Governor? Senate?

Of course, since Kirk resigned as Dallas mayor in 2002, followed by Lee Brown being term-limited in Houston in 2004, none of Texas' four largest cities has been led by an African-American, and only San Antonio, in Julian Castro, has a minority mayor at all.

Oh, and just to be on the safe side, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Sheila Jackson Lee ain't never running for the Senate, neither.

In short, hell may not quite be frozen over, but it will certainly be off-season before a black Democrat runs statewide again.

Or, if not hell cooling off, let's loop this post back on its own beginning:

A black Democrat will run for statewide office in Texas about the time Michael Williams stops wearing his bow tie. (Or Clayton Williams starts wearing one.)


Update: Per PDiddie's comment, no disparagement was meant of those who have made the leap, or at least the attempt, and didn't succeed. In part, this is about Democrats of all ethnicities developing more of a "bench" for state-level offices. On judicial positions above the district level, it's also about telling people more what's at stake. And, it's about blacks perhaps realizing that some of those statewide offices aren't "bad" ones. There's still black farmers and ranchers in rural east and central Texas, for example.

And, although blacks and Hispanics don't generally, and certainly not at the Democratic officeholder level, see themselves in "competition," there are demographic issues at stake. The large Hispanic migration and internal growth of the last decade or so, combined with at least some of the largely white migration to Texas from other states being Democratic means that African-Americans have become a smaller portion of the Democratic pool than before.


Update 2: PDiddie notes there's still no announced Democratic competition for Cornyn, but that speculation grows that he might be primaried from the tea party right. Would one of the Three Blind Mice challenging Dudley Dewless for Lite Guv move over to that race? If that would happen, I'd actually bet on Patrick being most likely to leap.

September 20, 2013

Chimerism causes problems for souls, life forces and other metaphysics

I had originally titled this post, pre-publication, as "How many individuals are inside each of us?" But, as I later expanded it more, I decided I wanted the change, especially when I, like one of the few good things Christopher Hitchens did as a Gnu Atheist, took Eastern as well as Western religion into my gunsights.

That first sentence? That's a rhetorical question, as regular readers of this blog might guess. But, it's one based on hard science, and this time, it's not based on neuroscience or philosophy ideas of Dan Dennett.

Carl Zimmer's latest science piece in the New York Times is simply fascinating. It appears that many more humans than previously recognized are chimeras.

That is, whether you were part of a twin birth or not, you were part of a twin conception, and you either absorbed some cells from your twin or, in many cases, you absorbed the entire twin.

Or, some of us may be a mosaic, just like the mosaic cats you see with two halves of their faces with definitely different colors. In humans, it seems the mosaic patterns don't show up in outward appearance; rather, more insidiously, they may be behind the formation of some cancers.

A mosaic is not a blend of two different persons' DNA, as one twin absorbing another. Per this new piece by Zimmer, rather, a mozaic is when one zygote undergoes mutations early in cell division, before any differentiation, and both (or three or more!) cell versions are preserved. Result? Part of the cells of a heart may be defective, but not all.

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm also an atheist. And, not just an atheist in the way the Dalai Lama is, or some New Agers claim to be. Rather, I'm also an anti-metaphysician.

And, while I'm not a Gnu Atheist, generally poking fun at Christians liberal and fundamentalist alike just because they're Christians, nonetheless, to anybody who believes in an immaterial, metaphysical soul, the fact of chimerism (and other issues of human conception behind it) present stark challenges to your belief. As they do to religious-based prolife stances. (What a Nat Hentoff does with information like this, I have no idea, but he may "elide" it too.)

My answer to the rhetorical question is that there's quite posssibly more than "one" inside of me, if we're talking about DNA. It's also that, Dennett's multiple-drafts theory of consciousness, and ideas of subselves, aside, that there's only one inside of me if we're talking about core personalities. That's because I have only one brain, and only one body to embody the consciousness that's inside me, and zero souls, no matter whether my DNA is from one fertilized zygote or two, representing that consciousness. 

This is why that, though my move from conservative-to-fundamentalist Lutheranism to eventually land in atheism, or secular humanism, began over psychological and philosophical issues related to the problem of evil, as well as doing intellectual judo on my religious upbringing from my own religious graduate school training, eventually, science issues also came into mind.

Now, liberal versions of Christianity can find themselves perfectly compatible with, say, evolution. But, any religion that believes in an individualized, metaphysical soul? I simply don't see how you reconcile these scientific findings with your beliefs. And, under "individualized, metaphysical soul" I include the likes of the Dalai Lama and millions of other Buddhists who believe that some individualized life force is reincarnated. If it's an item tied to an individual person and it's metaphysical, it fits the bill here.

Many people claim that the Dalai Lama has said that he'll accept whatever science says.

However, I have read (sorry, I never did bookmark it) that he has elsewhere said that if it is science vs. one of two core Buddhist principles — karma and reincarnation — then science goes and Buddhism stays. 

And I don't doubt that its true.

In other words, chimerism simply wrecks the idea of a soul being created at conception, unless one is prepared to stand by an even darker god than John Calvin was.  If you're of the ilk of Hobby Lobby,  or Catholics, then, in the case of chimeras, you have to quadruple down on the biblical myth of Jacob and Esau in the womb, and believe that one of two fraternal twins, in many births, is a cannibalistic soul-devourer. Or else, it's a physical cannibal with two souls "attached" to what on the outside seems to be one body, with one brain.

Chimerism also has other connections to the abortion debate, especially within the Western monotheistic/monotritheistic tradition.

It's another variant on the old problem of evil. How can a deity purportedly both all-powerful and all-good let human reproduction be such a minefield of problems? Beyond all the chimeras (which, to be most blunt, from the fundamentalist point of view, must be considered versions of tiny infant cannibalism) to the fact that as many as one in four, maybe even one in three, human conceptions is spontaneously aborted, it is not even close to being anything but an evolutionary minimum of success, it would seem. And, aside from the fundamentalist problems I just lined out already, it's also a vast waste of putative divine economy.

If any fundamentalist tries to do the old hand-waving about how god's ways aren't are ways and vice versa, and god is inscrutable, etc., therefore there's surely an ultimate good behind this, I answer twice.

The first is that a god who is all-powerful and all-good not only can but morally should make his plans scrutable to any sentient beings he creates. Therefore, this is just the problem of evil squred.

Second is that said god is illogical, and unless one wants to be Martin Luther and talk about "that whore, reason," not all-good and therefore self-refuting.

To any fundamentalist who says "original sin," I reply three ways.

First and second, the two answers above.

Third, that you believe in a monster who isn't even close to all-good. (And, yes, like Ken Ham, some Xns actually will attribute the cause of anything wrong in our world to original sin.)

And, speaking of "souls," maybe chimerism explains why identical twins aren't so identical, even in their brains. (Of course, this would require parental cells/DNA, or else a third, fraternal twin.)

Update, May 2, 2021: Fascinating Smithsonian piece here. If you're familiar with what chimeras are, namely a human fetus that has absorbed another in the womb, the discovery that moms can become chimeras from their fetuses is ... fascinating.

September 18, 2013

Syria: It appears Assad did do it, at least this time

The UN investigation looking at the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus, though not given the assignment of blame as part of its remits, ties the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. And, contrary my previous guesstimates, given that these appear to have been Republican Guard troops, unless President Assad has been a hostage of his generals for a month and counting, we can't say that these are rogue troops.

So, pending further information that would drastically change things, I stand corrected. And I'm willing to admit that.

That said, the UN is planning on investigating other reported uses of chemical weapons. And, some of those may have been by rebels, or generals not directly connected to Assad. Stay tuned.

All of that said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

That includes Obamiac friends on Facebook and elsewhere. Because, as I note in that link immediately above, a "pinprick" will not change who's in command. And "more than a pinprick," per Dear Leader's own warmongering comments, can only effect such change if its boots on the ground. This is not Libya, where there was a semi-coherent, semi-unified opposition there. That said, per the attack on our CIA spook shack in Benghazi, we've seen what happens even with a semi-coherent, semi-unified opposition when there's not a bunch of American boots on the ground.

My position on that still stands. So, since this removes a lot of measure of doubt, and Obama will probably be making another speech to the nation by the end of this month, I want more specifics, including a realistic exit plan and realistic listing of hoped-for achievements. Until then, I will continue to oppose intervention in Syria.

Meanwhile, it's no surprise the Russians are doing everything they can to tear down the credibility of the report.

And, now, a day later, Vlad the Impaler Putin is just being a fucking idiot, playing Alex Jones and saying this was a rebel false flag operation.

The one remaining question is: In Britain, will David Cameron try to run a second vote on Syria action by Parliament? If so, will he get his whips on line and will they get the coalition on line?

Now, back to the original blog post.

Is LCRA going to get sued over #ESA, as its head resigns?

Becky Motal, LCRA general manager
The Lower Colorado River Authority is asking to be exempt from having to send water to Matagorda Bay for environmental reasons.

Given that the LCRA itself lists a number of legally threatened or endangered species that live, in part, in the bay, on page 31 and following of this PDF about the bay's health, and given that Texas Parks and Wildlife says that freshwater flow is essential to the bay's health, and that the list includes whooping cranes and several species of sea turtle, and that whoopers and water flow on the Guadalupe have already landed in court, (although appealed by Mr. I Sue Obama), I'd say the answer to my rhetorical question is a very likely yes.

That said, because commercial fisherman and birdwatchers would also benefit from at least a trickle of additional water, if this goes to court, and Abbott again appeals an environmentally favorable ruling, he may be in a bit of a constituent/potential voter bind.

And it looks like all the drought-related water management hassles have become too much for LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. She's stepping down. No effective date mentioned. Per the story, and having met her in person, and having previously worked at a newspaper in the Highland Lakes, I know the board seemed fine with her work. So, the opening sentence of this paragraph isn't snarky, flippancy or a joke. She may be tired of the water juggling.

And, not just for this year. She probably was worried about the possibility of facing as much as five more years of these issues and worse. Per a recent story in my newspaper:
With 85 percent of the state still under drought conditions, and climatologists predicting the drought may continue or worsen in the coming months, it may be wishful thinking that there may be enough rain for winter forages to emerge, much less maintain growth, Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension state forage specialist in College Station, said recently.
Not only do climatologist predict a droughty fall for much of the state, but the long-range forecasts are for five or more years of at least some degree of continued drought, Redmon said.
Matagorda Bay will be at least half-dead and jammed with dry rice hulls from dry rice farms by then. (Right now, at Wharton, its flow is 19 cubic feet per second.)

Certainly, LCRA's idea for making lake levels in Lake Austin more "flexible" upset rich people (who probably included neolib Democrats as well as Republicans).

Is #WendyDavis the answer? (updated)

Update, Sept. 5: With her ailing father now having died, after two weeks or so of reasonable respect for her privacy, we shuld know for sure, one way or the other, what Davis thinks about herself being the "answer" as Texas Democrats' gubernatorial candidate. 

Update, Sept. 18: Well, we will know one way or the other whether she thinks she is the answer on Oct. 3. That's when she's set to make an announcement.

The question, of course, for Texas Democrats, is, "can we win a statewide race," especially the governor's mansion, with all of us fondly saying "adios, mofo" to Rick Perry.

The answer is, not likely in 2014, not even with Wendy Davis.

She looks good, right?

Who wouldn't love her filibuster? Especially with all the livestreaming making Lite Guv David Dewless look idiotic and bullying in real time?

And, she twice won a GOP-leaning state senate seat, right? (More on that later.)

That said, for people urging her to run for governor in 2014? Slate has a good analysis of that. It would be an uphill slog. But, not totally so. She's now got name recognition to leverage, especially if TDP gets Obama-smart with online outreach, simply using things like the best video snippets of Davis'.

Beyond that, she's unquestionably more dynamic than either White or Bell, presumably more liberal overall than White, and certainly more liberal than Sanchez was.

And, meeting with the head of the Democratic Governors' Association certainly fuels the fires and speculation.

At the same time, her rising star power doesn't change any of the basic issues mentioned above to any significant degree.

Political scientist Cal Jillson stresses that in this story (subscription needed, but quote via Off the Kuff):
Jillson warns Democrats not to be swept away by “Wendy-mania.”

“The events of the past week have certainly amped up the energy in Texas politics, but the changes required to turn Texas purple, let alone blue, will still be a decade or more in coming,” Jillson said.

Indeed, a Houston Chronicle analysis of election data from 2000 to 2012 found that demographic shifts toward an ever-increasing minority population will only take Democrats so far. The study, conducted last November, found that if current demographic and voting trends continue, Texas will become a politically competitive state in 2020 and a true toss-up in 2024.
Well put. The Texas Tribune has a similar take.

And, Kuff pours a bit more cold water of reality on Davis' chances against both Perry and Abbott. (Interestingly, she's the only by-name Democratic possible who polls better against Abbott than Perry. Abbott crushes Perry in most Dem-hypothetical matchups. That's probably more reason Perry's July 8 "exciting news" announcement is not about running for re-election as governor.)

And, speaking of cold water, I've already poured some of that on the hype about Battleground Texas and Hispanic demographics, etc.

Would that it were different. Davis is more dynamic than either White or  Bell, certainly a real Dem unlike Sanchez (and more liberal than White), and has shown she can win over independent voters.

Speaking of ...

People who tout Davis' state senate results ignore that even if her district tilts Republican, it's still suburban Republican. In the less Austinized portions of the Hill Country, in the Piney Woods, in West Texas, that means bupkis. Sorry, folks but true. And, while those parts of Texas are gradually becoming a smaller part of the total vote pie, they're nowhere close to insignificant.

NPR nails this with a map of Obama's 2012 performance in Texas. In short: He didn't win anything that wasn't majorly urban or majorly Hispanic. Now, I'm not expecting Davis, or whomever, to win, or even try to win, a small county in the Panhandle. But, she, or whomever, does have to be more competitive in an exurban place like Ellis County, southeast of Dallas. Or in smaller but not insignificant, cities like Wichita Falls, Abilene or Tyler.

And that means a targeted effort to recruit recent transplants to Texas.

If BG Texas is serious, and if Davis is serious, people who have moved to Texas from other states within the last decade also need to be targeted.

Well, some of them. For example, if database info tells you that Mr./Ms. X moved to The Woodlands from Orange County, Calif., you write them off. But, targeted campaigns toward people who moved here from, say, the Columbus, Ohio, area? Different story.

That NPR piece is part of a larger series on changing demographics (and other issues) and how they relate to Texas' political future.

So, again ... Davis might run a closer race than most Democrats. That said, to riff on Kuff, her better numbers against Abbott than against Perry might be due to enough name recognition power to help.

Kuff now has an update on Davis' early fundraising. She's accumulating a pile enough to mount a strong Democratic primary, but she needs yet more to be a viable general election candidate.

In another post, Kuff rounds up the talk about the idea of her running for Lite Guv, which makes a lot of sense.

Update, Aug. 5: It doesn't make sense to Wendy. Without either ruling in or ruling out a run for Guv, she's not interested in Lite.

Update, Aug. 30: The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze, in a greatly snarky piece, wonders why, if BG Texas is so interested in Hispanic votes, it is so in love with a white woman? He also refers a NYT piece that notes that both other Texas white women and Hispanics are more conservative than her on abortion.

Finally, in terms of her electoral politics, if you want real change on issues other than abortion, Davis likely is not the answer. Nor is NAFTA-loving Julian Castro. Sure, either one of them may help with "winnability," though, as Schutze notes, abortion won't appeal to "independent" women voters in Texas, let alone would-be crossovers. And Sanchez, along with his other baggage, may still not speak Spanish that well, or appeal that much more than did ... Tony Sanchez.

Update, Sept. 17: Meanwhile, a University of Houston political science claims that Davis may just have a shot. Off the Kuff and Brains and Eggs report generally favorably (with Brains noting a major error in his 2006 numbers for Chris Bell), but I'm still somewhat in the Jim Schutze camp on thinking a strong pro-choice stance could actually drive away suburban white women swing voters, at least if it's far and away the top talking point.. Even if GOP misogyny is on the rise, a lot of GOP-leaning suburban white women are still comfortable enough with it that Davis will still have an uphill row to hoe unless she develops a platform on other issues. Like education, which is ripe for the picking.

On the other hand, both Schutze and I could be wrong. Kuff cites a UT political scientist, James Henson, with this:
One reason to think that suburban women might be part of an electoral solution for the Democrats: They haven’t been swept up in the conservative ideological surge personified by the Tea Party. Between October 2010 and June 2013, conservative identification decreased from 49 percent to 38 percent among these women.  ...

But opposition to her is far from unanimous among women, in part because suburban women are some of the biggest supporters of abortion rights in the Texas electorate: 45 percent think that abortion should be allowed in all circumstances as a matter of personal choice. This is a big gap compared with 38 percent of all Texas women and 36 percent of Texans generally — and only 13 percent of Republicans of both genders.
On the third hand, that last graph shows just how purplish sububs of the Texas Triangle's main cities have become. Note that Henson doesn't sort out suburban white women, suburban GOP leaners or anybody else. Still seems a thinnish reed.

Finally, if she's not the answer, who is? Leticia van de Putte is both female and Hispanic, if you want to check boxes. And, surely, more liberal overall, and more broadly liberal, than Davis.

Update, Oct. 4: Let's loop this back to Schutze. Some would say Davis can't go too liberal. It's clear, as San Antonio's alt-weekly spells out in detail, that she needs to get white women to vote for her. So, per my blog post about her announcement, she has to broaden her focus. Can she do that, but be reasonably liberal on jobs, education and other things?

September 17, 2013

Fetal pain issue overblown by pro-life side?

A new story in the New York Times says it likely is indeed.

(The Journal of the American Medical Association expressly says it is highly unlikely fetuses do not feel pain before 24 weeks.)

On the pro-choice vs. pro-life issue, I'm probably somewhere in the great American muddled middle. That includes accepting that the state has a compelling interest, using that phrase in its full legal meaning, at protecting human life, and that, by the third trimester, such a judgment can be made. But, as part of that, not just on the compelling interest issue but reproductive issues in general, I advocate turning to sound science.

And, it appears ardent pro-lifers don't. It seems that fetal pain is definitely not an issue at 20 weeks, and apparently not at 24 weeks, either. It's only in what is, per Roe v. Wade, the third trimester, when a tiny fraction of abortions are performed, that it is an issue. But, per the link, that doesn't stop fetal pain from being the latest "hand-waver" for ardent pro-lifers. (That is, unless it undercuts their position; see below.)

But, the biggest issue of exploitative use isn't even that. It's selectively deliberate non-use of science, along with invention of pseudoscience, per the last two grafs of the story:
Some scientists say if fetuses feel pain, childbirth would seem to be particularly painful. Yet fetal-pain law supporters do not advocate fetal anesthesia or painkillers then. (Mary Spaulding Balch, the National Right to Life Committee’s state policy director) said she believes “there is something that is produced that prevents pain” for babies being born. 

Scientists say that is not so. “There are ways in which the pain of being born may help the fetus by producing activation in the pathways of the brain,” (Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, a professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology and neurobiology at the University of Tennessee) said. 

Would that be the late 19th century pre-Einsteinian ether?

Maybe, for two snarks to make a right, it's endocannabinoids, and a baby suffering a painful birth is at danger of becoming a pothead?

Also, said people ignore other realities.

Abortion, like homosexuality, is found in the animal world. That in turn ties back to about one-quarter of human pregnancies ending in spontaneous abortion. For conservative Christians, the omnipotent god isn't, or else his anger over original sin really is tremendously out of proportion to the "crime." And, induced abortion has been around at least 3,500 years, without explicit mention in either Christian testament.

I don't like blogging too much about abortion. It's not the central political issue for me, although it's not totally unimportant, either. I also know that some friends who read and tolerate otherwise what I say here, even if disagreeing with a fair amount of it, find abortion to be a bright-line issue.

But, I have done so before. And this needs to be said.

So too does the other reality-based issue. If you're that against abortion, then stop fighting birth control, and stop promoting abstinence-only sex education.

And, as part of that reality, admit that unmarried people got preggers in the past, too. I've read that as many as one-third of brides in Victorian Scotland were pregnant on their wedding day. There were surely yet other women who didn't count in that figure because they either had illicit abortions or didn't get married, meaning half of women in Victorian Scotland had their first pregnancy start outside of marriage.


At the same time, "follow the science" cuts both ways. I simply disagree with people who say there's no reason to restrict third-trimester abortion, for example.

And, I find P.Z. Myers' support, via sociological "reasoning," for legalizing early-childhood infanticide, whether actual support or just theoretical, whether straight-up or tongue in cheek, to be appalling. (And, yes, he's made comments like that before.)

And, one can be pro-choice yet bluntly honest about what's happening. I present Ted Rall.

September 16, 2013

Federal journalism shield law might not be so good

The moon is blue once in a while, and I agree with Matt Ingram! He's right in that any federal "shield law" which, as part of said law, defines who a journalist is, is problematic at best. On the government side, what it gives, it can then take away. On the traditional media side, the reason they're liking it is arguably as much turf/cartel protection as anything.

Specifically, on the first issue, the current bill, though it does offer some coverage to journalists, it specifically excludes the likes of Wikileaks. Not just implicitly, but explicitly. And, some senators, like Sen. Betty Crocker (Dianne Feinstein) want it to go further and explicitly exclude all blogger-type journalists. That's you,  Glenn Greenwald. And, that part of this bill is only likely to get MORE politicized. So, the Newspaper Association of America and the National Newspaper Association should drop their support for the bill as it now stands.

Period. End of story. The government picking and choosing who a journalist is undercuts the First Amendment and is censorship by the back door. As Ingram says at the top link:
(W)e could just try to defend the First Amendment, which is specifically worded so that it doesn’t just apply to professional journalists, but to anyone involved in a “free press.” At the time the Constitution was written, that included everyone from Ben Franklin to the guy down the street printing pamphlets on his home-built printing press — the 18th-century equivalent of a blog. Instead of broadening the definition, the Senate is in fact severely narrowing it.
Bingo. Given how much journalism is in transition right now, the current shield law ideas that are floating around could cause more of a problem than they fix.

And, along Ingram's line of thought, freedom of the press was one of four freedoms all put in the same amendment, along with religion, speech and assembly. The big idea, to put it into today's terms, was "freedom of communication." That includes the freedom to spread my ideas as well as the freedom not to have to have others' ideas forcibly spread upon me, or the government aiding such people in so doing. (And that's where the rock is for we atheists on freedom FROM religion.)

And, beyond all this, with Members of Congress like Sen. Betty Crocker who continue to write blank checks to the CIA and NSA, their definition of "free speech" is questionable in general.

That's why I say the praise for the "Free Flow of Information" act by the likes of the NNA, is just wrong. (As well as the name of the bill being wrong.)

But, don't hold your breath over media trade groups changing their minds. Once they've got theirs, if they do, "nontraditional journalists" can probably just cut bait, in their minds.

That's just part of the turf angle, though, I beleive. I suspect both groups, and especially the NAA, which represents the big seven-day dailies, would want to keep the likes of Wikileaks in a subservient position. Assange, Manning, Snowden and whoever is next only gets to see the broadly read light of day if they play ball with Big Media.

But, that's wrong thinking too; the major journalism trade groups (and that's what they are, folks) shouldn't get greedy, narrow-minded, or short-sighted. The current, and the previous, presidential administrations have shown no compunction about abusing material witness statutes. Even if a Bradley Manning had not allegedly done anything "wrong," Team Obama or BushCo might have no problem letting him cool his heels for a few weeks, while under investigation as a material witness.

Now part of their praise for the act may be out of legitimate issues. In that case, the trade groups are still thinking wrong, per the First Amendment. And, that's not an "originalist" interpretation. I personally despise originalism in the version touted by the likes of Antonin Scalia and find it questionable even in lesser forms. And Ingram's not even a U.S. citizen; he's Canadian.

Which leads to the observation that it takes observant foreign nationals in many cases to point out what our Constitution actually means. That's sad, but it's nothing new.

That said, the more cyncial side of me has now arisen to use the old journalism phrase, "Follow the money." What if NAA and NNA don't want to protect even top-grade bloggers unless they become dues-paying members?

Apologies for originally misspelling "shield" in the header.